Nicoletta Sacchi, PhD

Professor of Oncology
Department of Cancer Genetics
Roswell Park Cancer Institute

Dr. Nicoletta Sacchi joined the Faculty of Roswell Park Cancer Institute, Buffalo, NY, in 2003, as a Professor of Oncology and Distinguished Member of Genetics. After receiving a magna cum laude Doctoral Degree in Biological Sciences from the University of Milan (Italy) with a thesis dissertation in yeast genetics, she performed postdoctoral training in different fields of genetics (clinical genetics and prenatal diagnosis, somatic cell genetics, inborn errors of metabolism, immunogenetics and cancer genetics) at the University of Milan (Italy) and the Erasmus University of Rotterdam (The Netherlands). After a significant stage in the lab of the Nobel Laureate George Köhler at the Basel Institute of Immunology  (Switzerland) working on mechanisms of antibody diversity involving also the peculiar DNA polymerase working without template, TdT, she chose to commit her efforts  to cancer research, and moved to the USA.  First at the Medical School (USUHS), Bethesda, and subsequently at the NCI (NIH) (Bethesda and Frederick, MD), she investigated whether in addition to direct derangement of oncogenes, also oncogene position effects  and dosage effects play a pathogenic role in leukemogenesis. To this end, she used as models specific chromosome regions (e.g. the 11q23 and 21q22  ) both involved in many nonrandom leukemia chromosome rearrangements and associated with genetic disorders predisposing to cancer (e.g. ataxia telangiectasia and Down syndrome). This research entailed accurate quantitative analysis of gene transcription in rare and scanty patients’ samples at a time when there was no qPCR. This led her to develop together with Piotr Chomczynski, a rapid, efficient and inexpensive method known as the “Single Step Method for RNA isolation” (Anal Biochem, 1987; Nature Protocols, 2006). This method, based on the finding that RNA can be isolated from DNA based on the acidity of the medium, greatly facilitated her studies over the years, but also advanced RNA-based technologies and, in the recent years, also the isolation of non-coding RNAs. The original paper describing this method, which was, and still is, widely used by scientists around the world, ranked #5 among the 100 most cited papers on November 2014.

In the genome era she was part of an international group of scientists collaborating  on the physical and linkage map of chromosome 21, the smallest human autosome, to accelerate the positional cloning of genes on chromosome 21 involved in many diseases (e.g. Core Binding Factor Leukemia (CBFL), Alzheimer disease, and Down syndrome). As a Faculty  (Associate Professor, then  Full Professor) at the University of Milan, she  identified  the molecular defects of t(8;21) CBF-AML leukemia, which led to the development of a method  for detecting and monitoring  residual minimal disease in leukemia patients  At the Sydney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center at Johns Hopkins, Baltimore, MD,    she expanded her research focus to epigenetics mechanisms of transcriptional regulation in leukemia and epithelial cancers, and   developed   prototypic  epigenetic strategies for early detection of cancer as well as cancer  therapy.

At the Roswell Park Cancer Institute (2003-present), she has been studying how intrinsic (genetic) and extrinsic (environmental) factors, by altering the developmental dynamics of signaling pathways, contribute to cancer initiation and progression. Thanks to grants from European and USA  agencies, and private foundations, she published over a hundred research papers, reviews and book chapters, trained many undergraduate, graduate students, medical students, postdoctoral and medical fellows at the academic institutions where she worked over the years. For her scientific achievements she was named “Highly Cited Researcher in Biology and Biochemistry” by the Institute for Scientific Information, Philadelphia, PA (2001), and received the honor of Commander of Merit from the President of Italy in 2007    

Research Interests: 
Transcription Factors/Nuclear receptors
Epigenetic mechanisms of transcriptional regulation (chromatin modifications and non-coding RNAs)
Epigenetics mechanisms of development and cancer
Systems biology
E-mail Address:
Phone Number: 
716-845-1054 (lab)