dr. Elena Catanzaro (PhD)

CRIG member


Postdoctoral researcher - Cell Death Investigation and Therapy Laboratory, Department of Human Structure and Repair, Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences (UGent)
Principal investigator: prof. Dmitri Krysko (MD, PhD)


Research focus

It is becoming clear that the type of cell death determines the efficiency of anticancer therapy and the long-term survival of patients. At the same time, the immunogenicity of malignant cells has been accepted as a critical determinant of efficacy in cancer therapy. Defined cytotoxic agents promote the generation of anticancer immune responses, potentially leading to tumor eradication by inducing, in malignant cells, immunogenic cell death (ICD). ICD is an umbrella term covering different regulated cell deaths. At first, it was determined that a particular type of apoptosis, driven by endoplasmic reticulum and oxidative stress, could promote ICD, then necroptosis followed. In 2020, we demonstrated for the first time that ferroptosis is also immunogenic, but the specific mechanism is still not fully understood.
My research aims to better understand the molecular mechanisms of ICD induced by different regulated cell death modalities and develop strategies to trigger and improve ICD, focusing on the role of the tumor microenvironment. This knowledge will be used to formulate anticancer vaccines based on cells or dendritic cells.


Dr. Elena Catanzaro obtained her Ph.D. degree in “Pharmacology and Toxicology, Human Development and Movement” at the University of Bologna in 2018. From 2018 she was a post-doctoral fellow at Bologna University where she performed preclinical drug discovery and characterizing potential antitumor agents at different levels (cellular, genetic and molecular) potentially capable of inducing canonical and non-canonical cell death and studying their immunogenic potential by using in vitro, and ex vivo cancer models. Given her interest in ICD and non-canonical cell death, in March 2022, she left Bologna and joined Prof. D. Krysko’s research group becoming a member of the “Cell Death Investigation and Therapy” laboratory at UGent (Belgium).
During her career, Dr. Catanzaro obtained several awards, as, for instance, the “Journal for ImmunoTherapy of Cancer (JITC) Best Basic Tumor Immunology Paper” award in 2021 for the paper “Vaccination with early ferroptotic cancer cells induces efficient antitumor immunity” (PMID: 33188036; IF 13.75) and the award for the best pharmacological research surveyed by the Italian Society of Pharmacology and Farmindustria, for the article “Hemidesmus indicus induces immunogenic death in human colorectal cancer cells” (PMID: 29849952; IF 5.16). She is Review Editor on the Editorial Board of Pharmacology of Anti-Cancer Drugs, specialty section of Frontiers in Pharmacology and Frontiers in Oncology. 

Key publications

  • Immunogenic cell death and role of nanomaterials serving as therapeutic vaccine for personalized cancer immunotherapy. Frontiers in Immunology, 2022. (ACCEPTED)
  • Natural products as inducers of non-canonical cell death: a weapon against Cancer. Cancers, 2021. (PMID: 33467668)
  • Vaccination with early ferroptotic cancer cells induces efficient anti-tumour immunity. Journal for ImmunoTherapy of Cancer. 2020 8(2):e001369. (PMID: 33188036). Web of Science impact factor: 13.75. 
  • Targeting topoisomerase II with trypthantrin derivatives: Discovery of 7-((2-(dimethylamino) ethyl) amino) indolo [2, 1-b] quinazoline-6, 12-dione as an antiproliferative agent and to treat cancer. European Journal of Medicinal Chemistry, 2020. (PMID: 32712536)
  • Immunogenic cell death induced by a new photodynamic therapy based on photosens and photodithazine. Journal for ImmunoTherapy of Cancer, 2019. (PMID: 31842994)
  • Cold atmospheric plasma induces apoptosis and oxidative stress pathway regulation in t-lymphoblastoid leukemia cells. Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity, 2017. (PMID: 28947928)
  • Identification of a new tamoxifen-xanthene hybrid as pro-apoptotic anticancer agent. Bioorganic Chemistry, 2019. (PMID: 30782572)
  • Hemidesmus indicus induces immunogenic death in human colorectal cancer cells. Oncotarget, 2018. (PMID: 29849952)
  • Marine sponge natural products with anticancer potential: An updated review. Marine Drugs, 2017. (PMID: 29027954)
  • Nrf2: a potential therapeutic target for naturally occurring anticancer drugs?. Expert Opinion on Therapeutic Targets, 2017. (PMID: 28675319)

Contact & links

  • Lab address: Campus UZ Ghent, Corneel Heymanslaan 10, 4B3, entrance 46, 9000 Ghent, Belgium
  • ResearchGate 
  • Google Scholar 
  • Elena Catanzaro is interested to receive invitations for presentations or talks