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Gabriele Romano

Gabriele Romano, PhD

Assistant Professor

Department: Pharmacology & Physiology


  • PhD - Molecular and Translational Medicine, University of Milan, Bicocca (2015)
  • MS - Medical Biotechnology, University of Milan, Bicocca (2012)
  • BS - Biotechnology, University of Milan, Bicocca (2010)

Awards & Honors

  • Drexel University nominee for the 2023 WW Smith Trust, Cancer Research category (2023)
  • Drexel University nominee for the 2023 Pew Biomedical Scholars competition (2022)
  • Divisional Fellow Research Grant- Division of Pathology & Laboratory Medicine, MD Anderson Cancer Center (2021)
  • Maryanne Rosenstein Family Fellowship in Cancer Research, MD Anderson Cancer Center (2019)
  • Outstanding Research Publication Award in Translational Research, MD Anderson Cancer Center (Supported by The Heath Memorial Fund) (2019)
  • Scholar In Training Award - Advances in Modeling Cancer in Mice, AACR (2017)
  • Scholarship for the study and research of Animal Models of Xenotransplantation, granted by the Department of Surgery and Translational Medicine, University of Milan, Bicocca (2014)
  • Scholarship for the participation in the "22nd Annual Short Course on Experimental Models of Human Cancer," The Jackson Lab (2013)
  • Scholarship "High-level Education and Internationalization," Cariplo Foundation (2012)

Gabriele Romano, PhD, is an assistant professor in the Department of Pharmacology & Physiology at Drexel University College of Medicine.

Research Overview

Research Interests

Cancer drug resistance; tumor suppressor genes; immune evasion; chemokine signaling; computational biology; functional genomics; HIV and cancer; nanoparticle-mediated drug delivery


Research in the Romano lab is focused on studying cancer drug resistance using a conjunction of mouse modeling, functional genomics and computational biology. We study intrinsic and acquired molecular mechanisms by which tumor cells resist targeted and/or immunotherapy approaches, with the final aim of developing novel therapeutic strategies for cancer patients. We are particularly interested in:

  • The tumor-stroma immunological axis in Minimal Residual Disease. When a small group of drug-tolerant cells evades treatment, it can give rise to a Minimal Residual Disease, where tumor cells linger in a dormant state. As Minimal Residual disease can fuel relapse and metastasis, its eradication is fundamental to obtaining long-lasting clinical effects. We are currently optimizing chemokine-based approaches to influence the composition of the immune infiltrate and direct the immune system toward eliminating residual tumor cells.
  • The role of tumor suppressors in cancer drug resistance. Most of the current targeted therapy approaches inhibit oncogene activity (i.e., BRAF inhibitors, EGFR inhibitors), often obtaining impressive clinical responses. Nevertheless, cancer is a genetic illness where at least 2-3 tumor suppressor gene mutations are usually required for tumorigenesis. Our lab uses functional genomics experiments to detect and anticipate tumor-suppressor-mediated resistance mechanisms to targeted therapy. We aim to develop effective counter-therapies to administer in conjunction or substitution of the current standard of care approaches.
  • Immunological mechanisms of HIV and cancer co-morbidity. People living with HIV (PLWH) are more prone to develop cancer due to their lowered immune surveillance. Although antiretroviral therapy has sharply decreased the prevalence of AIDS-defining cancers, there has been an increased incidence of non-AIDS-defining cancers. Importantly, PLWH who develop cancer show a significantly higher mortality rate than uninfected people. PLWH are generally less immunocompetent at a basal level, and evidence suggests that antiretroviral therapy can deplete T-cells in the tissues of specific subtypes of patients. Consequently, PLWH are at a major risk of developing an incomplete response to therapy and eventually relapsing. We aim to develop adjuvant treatment strategies to anticipate drug resistance and improve the outcome of cancer treatment in PLWH.


Selected Publications

“Microparticle-delivered Cxcl9 prolongs Braf inhibitor efficacy in melanoma”
Romano G, Paradiso F, Li P, Shukla P, Barger LN, El Naggar O, Miller JP, Liang RJ, Helms TL, Lazar AJ, Wargo JA, Taraballi F, Costello JCC, Kwong LN
Cancer Immunology Research. 2023

"Multi-modal molecular programs regulate melanoma cell state and clinical outcomes"
Andrews MC, Oba J, Zhu H, Wu C, Karpinets T, Creasy CA, Forget M, Yu Z, Song X, Mao X, Hoon DSB, Robertson AG, Romano G, Li P, Burton EM, Lu Y, Sloane RS, Wani KM, Rai K, Lazar AJ, Haydu LE, Bustos MA, Shen J, Chen Y, Patel KP, Morgan MB, Wargo JA, Kwong LN, Haymaker CL, Grimm EA, Hwu P, Zhang J, Gershenwald JE, Davies MA, Futreal PA, Bernatchez C, Woodman SE
Nature Communications. 2022

Microparticle-delivered Cxcl9 delays the relapse of Braf inhibitor-treated melanoma
Romano G, Paradiso F, Miller JP, Liang RJ, Wargo JA, Taraballi F, Costello JC, Kwong LN
BioRxiv, [Preprint]. 2022

"Tumor Microenvironment and Immune Escape in the Time Course of Glioblastoma"
Virtuoso A, De Luca C, Cirillo G, Riva M, Romano G, Bentivegna A, Lavitrano M, Papa M, Giovannoni R
Molecular Neurobiology. 2022

"BTK Inhibitors Synergise with 5-FU to Treat Drug-Resistant TP53-Null Colon Cancers"
Lavitrano, M., Ianzano, L., Bonomo, S., Cialdella, A., Cerrito, M. G., Pisano, F., Missaglia, C., Giovannoni, R., Romano, G., McLean, C. M., Voest, E. E., D'Amato, F., Noli, B., Ferri, G. L., Agostini, M., Pucciarelli, S., Helin, K., Leone, B. E., Canzonieri, V., and Grassilli, E.
J Pathol. 250:134-47.10.1002/path.5347 (2020)

"Specific Expression of a New Bruton Tyrosine Kinase Isoform (p65BTK) in the Glioblastoma Gemistocytic Histotype"
Sala, L., Cirillo, G., Riva, G., Romano, G., Giussani, C., Cialdella, A., Todisco, A., Virtuoso, A., Cerrito, M. G., Bentivegna, A., Grassilli, E., Ardizzoia, A., Bonoldi, E., Giovannoni, R., Papa, M., and Lavitrano, M.
Front Mol Neurosci. 12:2.10.3389/fnmol.2019.00002 (2019)

"BRAF Dimerization: An Underlying Resistance Mechanism in Low-Grade Pediatric Gliomas"
Romano, G., and Kwong, L. N.
Cancer Discov. 8:1064-65.10.1158/2159-8290.CD-18-0784 (2018)

"Diagnostic and Therapeutic Applications of miRNA-Based Strategies to Cancer Immunotherapy"
Romano, G., and Kwong, L. N.
Cancer Metastasis Rev. 37:45-53.10.1007/s10555-017-9716-7 (2018)

"APOA-1Milano Muteins, Orally Delivered Via Genetically Modified Rice, Show Anti-Atherogenic and Anti-Inflammatory Properties in Vitro and in Apoe(-/-) Atherosclerotic Mice"
Romano, G., Reggi, S., Kutryb-Zajac, B., Facoetti, A., Chisci, E., Pettinato, M., Giuffre, M. R., Vecchio, F., Leoni, S., De Giorgi, M., Avezza, F., Cadamuro, M., Crippa, L., Leone, B. E., Lavitrano, M., Rivolta, I., Barisani, D., Smolenski, R. T., and Giovannoni, R.
Int J Cardiol. 271:233-39.10.1016/j.ijcard.2018.04.029 (2018)

"A Preexisting Rare PIK3CAE545K Subpopulation Confers Clinical Resistance to MEK Plus CDK4/6 Inhibition in NRAS Melanoma and Is Dependent on S6K1 Signaling"
Romano, G., Chen, P., Song, P., McQuade, J.L., Liang, R.J., Liu, M., Roh, W., Duose, D.Y., Carapeto, F.C. L., Li, J., Teh, J.L.F., Aplin, A.E., Chen,M., Zhang, J., Lazar, A.J., Davies, M.A., Futreal, P.A., Amaria, R.N., Zhang, D.Y., Wargo, J.A., and Kwong, L.N.
Cancer Discovery. 8:556-67.10.1158/2159-8290.Cd-17-0745 (2018)

"The Path to Metastatic Mouse Models of Colorectal Cancer"
Romano, G., Chagani, S., and Kwong, L. N.
Oncogene. 37:2481-89.10.1038/s41388-018-0155-x (2018)

"miRNAs, Melanoma and Microenvironment: An Intricate Network"
Romano, G., and Kwong, L. N.
Int J Mol Sci. 18.10.3390/ijms18112354 (2017)

"Resveratrol Impairs Glioma Stem Cells Proliferation and Motility by Modulating the Wnt Signaling Pathway"
Cilibrasi, C., Riva, G., Romano, G., Cadamuro, M., Bazzoni, R., Butta, V., Paoletta, L., Dalpra, L., Strazzabosco, M., Lavitrano, M., Giovannoni, R., and Bentivegna, A.
PLoS One. 12:e0169854.10.1371/journal.pone.0169854 (2017)

"Thyrospheres from B-CPAP Cell Line with BRAF and TERT Promoter Mutations Have Different Functional and Molecular Features Than Parental Cells"
Caria, P., Pillai, R., Dettori, T., Frau, D. V., Zavattari, P., Riva, G., Romano, G., Pani, F., Bentivegna, A., Giovannoni, R., Pagni, F., Sogos, V., and Vanni, R.
J Cancer. 8:1629-39.10.7150/jca.18855 (2017)

"The TGF-β Pathway Is Activated by 5-Fluorouracil Treatment in Drug Resistant Colorectal Carcinoma Cells"
Romano, G., Santi, L., Bianco, M. R., Giuffre, M. R., Pettinato, M., Bugarin, C., Garanzini, C., Savarese, L., Leoni, S., Cerrito, M. G., Leone, B. E., Gaipa, G., Grassilli, E., Papa, M., Lavitrano, M., and Giovannoni, R.
Oncotarget. 7:22077-91.10.18632/oncotarget.7895 (2016)

"A Functional Biological Network Centered on XRCC3: A New Possible Marker of Chemoradiotherapy Resistance in Rectal Cancer Patients"
Agostini, M., Zangrando, A., Pastrello, C., D'Angelo, E., Romano, G., Giovannoni, R., Giordan, M., Maretto, I., Bedin, C., Zanon, C., Digito, M., Esposito, G., Mescoli, C., Lavitrano, M., Rizzolio, F., Jurisica, I., Giordano, A., Pucciarelli, S., and Nitti, D.
Cancer Biol Ther. 16:1160-71.10.1080/15384047.2015.1046652 (2015)

"Inhibition of GSK3B Bypass Drug Resistance of p53-Null Colon Carcinomas by Enabling Necroptosis in Response to Chemotherapy"
Grassilli, E., Narloch, R., Federzoni, E., Ianzano, L., Pisano, F., Giovannoni, R., Romano, G., Masiero, L., Leone, B. E., Bonin, S., Donada, M., Stanta, G., Helin, K., and Lavitrano, M.
Clin Cancer Res. 19:3820-31.10.1158/1078-0432.CCR-12-3289 (2013)

Contact Information

245 North 15th Street
Office: NCB 8814A/ Lab: NCB 8809
Philadelphia, PA 19102
Phone: 236.359.2764