The lab: Ceccaldi group

Lab's research themes:

Our group (Ceccaldi lab) was created in September 2017 ( We are located in the historical site of the Institut Curie in the center of Paris, France. Our group is composed of two post-doctoral fellows, 1 phD student, a research engineer and 3 master students among 4 different nationalities.

Merits of the lab:

In the past years, our team discovered the mechanism of action and developed the first- in-class inhibitors of polymerase theta (Polθ), an enzyme required for BRCA- mutated cancer survival (Zhou et al., Nature cancer 2021; Gelot et al, manuscript in preparation). In addition, we discovered several new targetable vulnerabilities in BRCA-mutated tumors (Musiani et al., BioRxiv. 2021) and initiated the development of two novel classes of inhibitors to be used for the treatment of BRCA-mutated cancers. This innovative drug development program was recently (Oct 2021) awarded an ERC proof of concept grant.

Our lab received several national and international grants such as the 2017-ERC Starting grant to study the basis of DNA repair, the 2021-ERC POC and 2021-Worldwide cancer research grant to develop new targeted therapies for chemoresistant tumors. Furthermore, we filled two patents 2021-EP21306704 and 2022- EP21306616 to develop new methods for the treatment of resistant HRD cancer.

Why do we want medical doctors?

The PI (Ceccaldi) holds PharmD and PhD degrees. Naturally, his research sits at the intersection of basic science and drug development. All students and researchers currently in the lab received an extensive training in basic research. Giving translational relevance to our finding is the main reason why an MD student will be a great additional to our team.

Country: France
Supervisor: Raphael Ceccaldi

The position

What’s the main purpose of our research?

Our team aims at bridging the fundamental scientific bases of genome stability maintenance with patient needs that regard cancer treatment; our ultimate goal is to foster the discovery and development of new chemotherapeutics. More specifically, we investigate DNA repair and synthetic lethal interaction in BRCA-mutated breast and ovarian cancer. Unraveling the function and structure of these mechanisms will facilitate the identification of new targets and ultimately the development of new molecules for the tailored treatment of these cancers.

In this PhD project, we aim to discover and study new targetable vulnerabilities for the treatment of chemoresistant breast and ovarian BRCA1/2-mutated tumors.

How we will do it?

Here to find alternative curative options for PARPi-resistant HRD tumors, we aim at identifying PARP1-independent DNA repair mechanisms essential for the survival of BRCA- mutated tumors. To do so, will employ two independent yet complementary high-throughput approaches (Step 1). We will perform genome-wide CRISPR-mediated screens and proteomic analyses by mass-spectrometry in several PARPi-naive and -resistant BRCA- mutated tumor cells to identify genes whose knockout kills PARPi-resistant tumor cells specifically.

The most promising hits arising from unbiased screens will be selected for further studies. Here each hits will be evaluated for its impact on genome stability maintenance and DNA repair by using live microscopy, immunofluorescence and sequencing (Step 2).

To evaluate the potential of these hits as new druggable target for the treatment of BRCA-mutated tumors, we will take advantage of the large collection of PARPi naive and resistant BRCA-mutated patients derived xenograft (PDXs) available at Institut Curie. We will measure whether inhibition of top hits can reduce PARPi-resistant tumor growth in vivo (Step 3). Finally, best hits (new targetable vulnerabilities) will be enroll in a drug development program to initiate, in collaboration with chemists and structural biologists, the development of small- molecule inhibitors (Step 4).

Why is this important?

Deficiency in homologous recombination (HR)-mediated DNA repair occurs mainly through genetic inactivation of the BRCA1 and BRCA2 (BRCA) genes. HR-

deficiency (HRD) plays a role in the initiation and progression of many tumor types, including breast, ovarian and pancreatic tumors. Importantly, about 50% of basal like breast tumors and ovarian serous carcinomas show defect in HR. HRD tumors (or BRCA-mutated tumors) exhibit increased genomic instability and dependence on alternative DNA repair mechanisms for survival, setting the stage for synthetic lethality-based targeted therapies. A prime example is the extreme sensitivity of HRD tumors to poly (ADP-ribose) polymerase inhibitors (PARPi). However, PARPi and other chemotherapeutics have shown limited effectiveness in achieving HRD cancer remission, notably because of the emergence of drug resistance. Hence, no therapeutic options are left for patients suffering from HRD cancers, and many succumb to the disease, stressing the need for alternative curative options. Providing with new curative options for the treatment of these tumors is the final goal of our team (Step 5).

Who is a good fit for the project?

Any medical doctor with a strong interest in basic research and especially tumor biology. A knowledge of breast and ovarian tumors will be considered as a plus.


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