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Silvia Ottaviani

Silvia Ottaviani

Senior Lecturer

School of Science and Technology

Staff Group(s)


Dr Silvia Ottaviani is a Senior Lecturer in Molecular Cell Biology within the Bioscience Department, School of Science and Technology and Group Leader in the John van Geest Cancer Research Centre. Dr Ottaviani research interests are in the field of non-coding RNAs in epithelial cancer, in particular pancreatic cancer.

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Career overview

Dr Silvia Ottaviani obtained a BSc (Hons) in Medical and Pharmaceutical Biotechnology in 2007 from San Raffaele University in Milan (Italy) with a summer placement in the RNA laboratory of Dr Elisa Izaurralde at EMBL in Heidelberg (Germany). Dr Ottaviani carried out her undergraduate project under Prof Luigi Naldini’s supervision on the applications of RNA-interference in disease.

Dr Ottaviani then moved to London (United Kingdom) and obtained an MSc in Molecular Medicine in 2008 and a PhD in Cancer Biology in 2012 both from Imperial College London. During her PhD, she investigated the role of a novel androgen-regulated gene in prostate cancer under the joint supervision of Profs Laki Buluwela and Simak Ali. After completion of her PhD, Dr Ottaviani started a postdoctoral position with Prof Justin Stebbing and Dr Leandro Castellano at the Department of Surgery and Cancer, Imperial College London, investigating the role of microRNAs induced by TGF-b in pancreatic cancer. By integrating transcriptomics and functional studies Dr Ottaviani identified candidate microRNAs as potential therapeutic target for the advanced stage of the disease.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Dr Ottaviani joined the effort of a collaborative research programme on the repurposed drug baricitinib, to advance COVID-19 research. This research led to phase 3 clinical trials and an FDA approval. Dr Ottaviani was a finalist for the COVID Unsung Hero Awards - Celebrating women in STEM, for this research.

Dr Ottaviani joined NTU as a Senior Lecturer in 2021 and started her own research programme at the John van Geest Cancer Research Centre. She also holds an Honorary Lecturer position at Imperial College London.

Dr Ottaviani is a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy (FHEA).

Research areas

Dr Silvia Ottaviani's research is focused on investigating the role of non-coding RNAs, specifically microRNAs and long non-coding RNAs, in pancreatic cancer. In particular, Dr Ottaviani is interested in understanding how non-coding RNAs regulate the metastatic process, a multi-step process that involves the interplay between tumour cells and the microenvironment resulting in the spread of the cancer from the primary site. Pancreatic cancer is a deadly disease with high metastatic potential and most patients are often diagnosed with metastatic disease. Dr Ottaviani aims to identify novel targets for therapy for this stage of the disease. She is also interested in identifying circulating microRNAs in plasma or serum of cancer patients to discover novel biomarkers that can be easily translated to the clinic.

Current projects:

  • MicroRNAs as biomarkers for COVID-19 disease
  • Investigating tumour heterogeneity using single-cell RNA sequencing
  • Use of nanoparticles for delivery of anti-miRNAs in pancreatic cancer
  • The role of microRNAs in the tumour microenvironment
  • The role of long non-coding RNAs in pancreatic cancer progression

Opportunities arise to carry out postgraduate research towards an MPhil/PhD. Further information may be obtained on the NTU Research Degrees' website.

External activity

Professional Memberships

Dr Ottaviani is a member of the British Association of Cancer Research (BACR), the European Association of Cancer Research (EACR), the Biochemical Society and the Federation of European Biochemical Societies (FEBS).

Editorial Roles

Dr Ottaviani is an Associate Editor for Oncogene (Springer Nature).

Dr Ottaviani is member of the Editorial board of Cancer Gene Therapy (Springer Nature).

Reviewer Activity

Dr Ottaviani regularly reviews papers from Oncogene, Cancer Gene Therapy, Cellular Oncology, Frontiers in Oncology, Scientific Reports, BMC Cancer and non-coding RNA.

Sponsors and collaborators

Dr Ottaviani is supported by grants from:

  • 2020-2023, The British Society for Antimicrobial Chemotherapy (BSAC), £25,000 (co-PI)
  • 2018-2023, Action Against Cancer (AAC), £340,000 (co-PI)


  1. Salvado Correia J, Mirón-Barroso S, Hutchings C, Ottaviani S, Somuncuoğlu B, Castellano L, Porter A., Krell J and Georgiou T. “ How does the polymer architecture and position of cationic charges affect cell viability?” Polymer Chemistry December 2022
  2. Mirón-Barroso S, Salvado Correia J, Frampton AE, Lythgoe M, Clark J, Tookman L, Ottaviani S, Castellano L, Porter A, Georgiou T, Krell J. “Polymeric carriers for delivery of RNA cancer therapeutics”. Non-coding RNA July 2022
  3. Chrysostomou S, Roy R, Prischi F, Thamlikitkul L, Chapman KL, Mufti U, Peach R, Ding L, Hancock D, Moore C, Molina-Arcas M, Mauri F, Pinato DJ, Abrahams JM, Ottaviani S, Castellano L, Giamas G, Pascoe J, Moonamale D, Pirrie S, Gaunt C, Billingham L, Steven NM, Cullen M, Hrouda D, Winkler M, Post J, Cohen P, Salpeter SJ, Bar V, Zundelevich A, Golan S, Leibovici D, Lara R, Klug DR, Yaliraki SN, Barahona M, Wang Y, Downward J, Skehel JM, Ali MMU, Seckl MJ, Pardo OE.” Repurposed floxacins targeting RSK4 prevent chemoresistance and metastasis in lung and bladder cancer”. Sci Transl Med. 2021 Jul 14;13(602):eaba4627.
  4. Zagorac S, de Giorgio A, Dabrowska A, Kalisz M, Casas-Vila N, Cathcart P, Yiu A, Ottaviani S, Degani N, Lombardo Y, Tweedie A, Nissan T, Ali S, Vance KW, Ulitsky I, Stebbing J and Castellano L “SCIRT lncRNA restrains tumourigenesis by controlling transcriptional programmes of tumour-initiating cells by negative feedback”. Cancer Res. 2021 Feb 1;81(3):580-593.
  5. Stebbing J, Sánchez Nievas G, Falcone M, Youhanna S, Richardson P, Ottaviani S, Shen JX, Sommerauer C, Tiseo G, Ghiadoni L, Virdis A, Monzani F, Rizos LR, Forfori F, Avendaño Céspedes A, De Marco S, Carrozzi L, Lena F, Sánchez-Jurado PM, Lacerenza LG, Cesira N, Caldevilla Bernardo D, Perrella A, Niccoli L, Méndez LS, Matarrese D, Goletti D, Tan YJ, Monteil V, Dranitsaris G, Cantini F, Farcomeni A, Dutta S, Burley SK, Zhang H, Pistello M, Li W, Romero MM, Andrés Pretel F, Simón-Talero RS, García-Molina R, Kutter C, Felce JH, Nizami ZF, Miklosi AG, Penninger JM, Menichetti F, Mirazimi A, Abizanda P, Lauschke VM. “ JAK inhibition reduces SARS-CoV-2 liver infectivity and modulates inflammatory responses to reduce morbidity and mortality”. Sci Adv. 2021 Jan 1;7(1):eabe4724.
  6. SimsJT, Krishnan V, Chang C-Y, Engle SM, Casalini G, Rodgers GH, Bivi N, Nickoloff BJ, Konrad RJ, de Bono S, Higgs RE, Benschop RJ, Ottaviani S, Cardoso A, Nirula A, Corbellino C and Stebbing J. “Characterization of the Cytokine Storm Reflects Hyperinflammatory Endothelial Dysfunction in COVID-19”. J Allergy Clin Immunol. 2021 Jan;147(1):107-111.
  7. Ottaviani S, Stebbing J. “What is the best drug to treat COVID-19? The need for randomised trials”. Med (N Y). 2020 Dec 18;1(1):9-10.
  8. Peng L, Xiao K, Ottaviani S, Stebbing J, Wang YJ. “A real-world disproportionality analysis of FDA Adverse Event Reporting System (FAERS) events for baricitinib”. Expert Opin Drug Saf. 2020 Nov;19(11):1505-1511.
  9. Stebbing J, Krishnan V, de Bono S, Ottaviani S, Casalini G, Richardson PJ, Monteil V, Lauschke VM, Mirazimi A, Ross Terres JA, Nickoloff BJ, Higgs RE, Rocha G, Byers NL, Schlichting DE, Cardoso A, Corbellino M “Mechanism of baricitinib supports artificial intelligence-predicted testing in COVID-19 patients”. EMBO Mol Med. 2020 Aug 7;12(8):e12697.
  10. Richardson PJ*, Ottaviani S*, Prelle A, Stebbing J, Casalini G, Carbellino M. “CNS penetration of potential anti-COVID-19 drugs”. J Neurol. 2020 Jul;267(7):1880-1882. (*joint first. corresponding author)
  11. Ottaviani S and Castellano L “microRNAs: novel regulator of the TGF-β pathway in pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma”. Mol Cell Oncol. 2018 Aug 13;5(6):e1499066.
  12. Ottaviani S, Stebbing J, Frampton AE, Krell J, De Giorgio A, Trabulo SM, Magnani L, Nguyen VT, Giovannetti E, Funel N, Jiao LR, Lombardo Y, Heeschen C, Castellano L. "TGF-β induces miR-100 ad miR-125b but blocks let-7a through LIN28B controlling PDAC progression". Nat Commun. 2018 May 10;9(1):1845.
  13. Patel H, Periyasamy M, Bondke A, Slafer BW, Kroll SHB, Barbazanges M, Starkey R, Ottaviani S, Harrod A, Aboagye E, Buluwela L, Fuchter MJ, Barrett AGM, R. Charles Coombes RC, Ali S. “ICEC0942, an Orally Bioavailable Selective Inhibitor of CDK7 for Cancer Treatment”. Mol Cancer Ther. 2018 Jun;17(6)1156-1166.
  14. Castellano L, Dabrowska A, Pellegrino L, Ottaviani S, Cathcart P, Frampton AE, Krell J, Stebbing J. “Sustained expression of miR-26a promotes chromosomal instability and tumorigenesis through regulation of CHFR”. Nucleic Acids Res. 2017 May 5;45(8):4401-4412.
  15. Miller HC, Frampton AE, Malczewska A, Ottaviani S, Stronach E, Flora R, Kaemmerer D, Schwach G, Pfragner R, Faiz O, Hanna GB, Stebbing J, Castellano L, Frilling A. “MicroRNAs associated with small bowel neuroendocrine tumors and their metastases”. Endocr Relat Cancer. 2016 Sep;23(9):711-26.
  16. Cathcart P, Ottaviani S, Lucchesi W, De Giorgio A, Krell J, Stebbing J, Castellano L. "Noncoding RNAs and the control of signalling via nuclear receptor regulation in health and disease". Best Pract Res Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2015 Aug;29(4):529-43.
  17. Lin ML, Patel H, Remenyi J, Banerji CR, Lai CF, Periyasamy M, Lombardo Y, Busonero C, Ottaviani S, Passey A, Quinlan PR, Purdie CA, Jordan LB, Thompson AM, Finn RS, Rueda OM, Caldas C, Gil J, Coombes CR, Fuller-Pace FV, Teschendorff AE, Buluwela L, Ali S. "Expression profiling of nuclear receptors in breast cancer identifies TLX as a mediator of growth and invasion in triple-negative breast cancer". Oncotarget. 2015 Aug 28;6(25):21685-703.
  18. Ottaviani S, De Giorgio A, Harding V, Stebbing J, Castellano L. “Non-coding RNAs and the control of Hormonal Signaling via Nuclear Receptor Regulation.J Mol Endocrinol. 2014 Oct;53(2):R61-70.
  19. Krell J, Frampton AE, Mirnezami R, Harding V, De Giorgio A, Roca Alonso L, Cohen P, Ottaviani S, Colombo T, Jacob J, Pellegrino L, Buchanan G, Stebbing J, Castellano L. “Growth Arrest-Specific Transcript 5 Associated snoRNA Levels Are Related to p53 Expression and DNA Damage in Colorectal Cancer.” PLoS ONE. 2014 Jun 13;9(6):e98561.
  20. Lai CF, Flach K, Alexi X, Fox S, Ottaviani S, Tiruchelvam P, Kyle FJ, Thomas RS, Launchbury R, Hua H, Callaghan H, Carroll JS, Coombes RC, Zwart W, Buluwela L, Ali S. “Co-regulated gene expression by estrogen receptor-α and liver receptor homolog-1 is a feature of the estrogen response in breast cancer cells”. Nucleic Acids Res. 2013 Dec;41(22):10228-40. NAR breakthrough article.
  21. Ottaviani S, Brooke NG, O'Hanlon-Brown C, Waxman J, Buluwela L, Ali S. “Characterization of the androgen regulation of Glycine N-methyltransferase in prostate cancer cells”. J Mol Endocrinol. 2013 Nov 7;51(3):301-12.
  22. Pellegrino L, Stebbing J, Braga V, Frampton AE, Jacob J, Buluwela L, Jiao LR, Periyasamy M, Madsen CD, Caley MP, Ottaviani S, Roca-Alonso L, El-Bahrawy M, Coombes RC, Krell J, Castellano L. “miR23b regulates cytoskeletal remodeling, motility and metastasis by directly targeting multiple transcripts”. Nucleic Acids Res. 2013 May 1;41(10):5400-12.
  23. Alshaker H, Sauer L, Monteil D, Ottaviani S, Srivats S, Böhler T, Pchejetski D. “Therapeutic potential of targeting SK1 in human cancers”. Adv Cancer Res. 2013;117:143-200

See all of Silvia Ottaviani's publications...

Press expertise

Pancreatic cancer, microRNAs, long non-coding RNAs