Staff Scientist, Human Retrovirus Pathogenesis Section, Vaccine Branch
National Cancer Institute
Cristina Bergamaschi, Ph.D. is a molecular immunologist and vaccine biologist who has specialized in the development of immunomodulatory cytokine therapies for cancer treatment and improved vaccination strategies. Dr. Bergamaschi received her Ph.D. in Molecular Medicine specializing in Immunology from the University of Milan, Italy in 2008. She was awarded an NIH Visiting Fellowship for Cancer Research to conduct postdoctoral research in the Human Retrovirus Section headed by Dr. George N. Pavlakis at National Cancer Institute (NCI) in Frederick, MD, USA. She is currently a Staff Scientist in the Human Retrovirus Pathogenesis Section headed by Dr. Barbara K. Felber in the Vaccine Branch at NCI.
At the NCI, Dr. Bergamaschi investigated the molecular biology and function of interleukin-15 (IL-15), which regulate innate and adaptive leukocyte homeostasis and anti-tumor or anti-viral activities of leukocytes, in a variety of cellular and animal models including genetically modified mice and macaque models. Her research identified that bioactive IL-15 requires a heterodimeric protein composed of the IL-15 cytokine associated with the IL-15 Receptor alpha chain (hetIL-15) for optimal activity. In preclinical experiments, Dr. Bergamaschi showed that hetIL-15 administration may be a general method to induce lymphocyte entry into tumors, converting lymphocyte-poor “cold” tumors into “hot” and increasing the cytotoxicity of lymphocytes. The discovery on hetIL-15 was moved forward to create a novel cytokine therapy that is currently in clinical evaluation for metastatic cancer at the Clinical Center, NCI.
The goal of Dr. Bergamaschi’s research is to tailor immunomodulatory biologicals for improved clinical efficacy in cancer and infectious disease treatment and to translate her discoveries into clinical practices.