Francesca Ciccarelli

Cancer Systems Biology Laboratory

Our aim is to understand the role and significance of genetic alterations that occur in cancer (in particular colorectal and oesophageal cancers) using systems biology. 

Web image 2017

Our research builds upon the idea that cancer results from a systemic cellular perturbation and, although genes involved in cancer (i.e. cancer genes) differ functionally, they share intrinsic properties that are not visible when studying each gene individually.

We therefore use systems biology approaches to characterise cancer genes in the context of genome and network evolution. For example, we have shown that cancer genes encode highly connected and central proteins of the protein-protein interaction network. We also observed that tumour-suppressors are basic and ancient genes that maintain a single-copy status throughout evolution. Most oncogenes instead originated in metazoans, acquired additional copies in vertebrates and their dosage is often controlled at the post-transcriptional level.

While we continue to characterise new properties of cancer genes, we also use them to (1) identify novel and patient-specific cancer genes; (2) predict the onset of somatic dependencies and vulnerabilities that can be exploited in therapy; and (3) assess the role of clonal and sub-clonal mutations in cancer evolution.

Systems-level properties of known and candidate cancer genes can be found in the Network of Cancer Genes, a public resource that we manually curate and maintain (

Selected Publications 

Benedetti L, Cereda M, Monteverde L, Desai, N, Ciccarelli FD Synthetic lethal interaction between the tumour suppressor STAG2 and its paralog STAG1 (2017) Oncotarget 8, 37619

Gambardella G, Cereda M, Benedetti L, Ciccarelli FD MEGA-V: detection of altered biological gene sets in patient cohorts (2017) Bioinformatics  33, 1248

Cereda M, Gambardella G, Benedetti L, Iannelli F, Guerra R, Mourikis TP, Puccio I, Patel D, Basso G, Sinha S, Laghi L, Spencer J, Rodriguez-Justo M, Ciccarelli FD Patients with genetically heterogeneous synchronous colorectal cancer carry rare damaging germline mutations in immune-related genes (2016) Nature Communications7, 12072

Cereda M, Mourikis T, Ciccarelli FD Genetic Redundancy, Functional Compensation, and Cancer Vulnerability (2016) Trends in Cancer  4, 160

An A, Dall'Olio GM, Mourikis TP, Ciccarelli FD NCG 5.0: updates of a manually curated repository of cancer genes and associated properties from cancer mutational screenings (2016) Nucl Acid Res 2016 44, D992

Iannelli, Collino, Sinha, Radaelli, Nicoli, D'Antiga, Sonzogni, Faivre, Buendia, Sturm, Thompson, Knisely, Natoli, Ghisletti, Ciccarelli FD Massive gene amplification drives pediatric hepatocellular carcinoma caused by bile salt export pump deficiency (2014) Nature Communications5, 3850

D'Antonio, Guerra, Cereda, Marchesi, Montani, Nicassio, Di Fiore and Ciccarelli FD Recessive cancer genes engage negative genetic interactions with their functional paralogs (2013) Cell Reports 5, 1519

D'Antonio and Ciccarelli FD Integrated analysis of recurrent properties of cancer genes pinpoints novel drivers (2013) Genome Biology 14, R52

Francesca Ciccarelli or
+44 (0)20 379 63460

  • 1998 Master's in Pharmaceutical Chemistry at University of Bologna, Italy
  • 2003 PhD in Natural Science at University of Heidelberg, Germany
  • 2005 Established research group at European Institute of Oncology (IEO), Italy
  • 2014 Associate Professor in Cancer Genomics and Bioinformatics at King's College London, UK
  • 2016 Seconded Principal Investigator at the Francis Crick Institute