Sergio Gradilone, PhD, Receives Grant for Research That Could Lead to New Treatments for Bile Duct Cancer and Other Biliary Diseases

AUSTIN, Minn. – Sergio Gradilone, PhD, Associate Professor and leader of the Cancer Cell Biology and Translational Research section at The Hormel Institute, University of Minnesota, has received a grant titled “Primary Cilia Loss in Bile Duct Cells – the Interplay with the Autophagy Machinery” from the National Institutes of Health. The research to be conducted with this funding could lead to new treatments for cancer and other diseases that affect bile ducts and the gallbladder.

Cilia are the part of a cell similar to an antenna that receives signals from the environment around it. Ciliary defects in the cell and/or in the bile ducts are associated with diseases like bile duct cancer and polycystic liver disease (PLD).

The goal of Dr. Gradilone’s study is to further dissect the mechanisms maintaining cilia stability and understand the role of cilia in the regulation of epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) signaling. EGFR is a protein that controls cell division and survival. The loss or dysfunction of cilia enhances EGFR signaling, which is enhanced in bile duct cancer and PLD.

“Our research will help us better understand the fundamental mechanisms of ciliary dependent regulation of EGFR signaling”, said Dr. Gradilone. “This could lead to much-needed new treatment strategies for these devastating diseases.”

The four year, $1.9 million RO1 grant was awarded by the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Dr. Gradilone is working with Liqiang Chen, PhD, Associate Professor, Center for Drug Design (CDD) at the University of Minnesota and collaborators from Mayo Clinic on this study.



The Hormel Institute is an independent biomedical research department within the University of Minnesota’s Office of the Vice President for Research. Collaborative research partners include Masonic Cancer Center UMN (a Comprehensive Cancer Center as designated by the National Cancer Institute, N.I.H.), Mayo Clinic, and many other leading research centers worldwide. The Hormel Institute, which tripled in size in 2008 and doubled again in size in 2016, is home to some of the world’s most cutting-edge research technologies and expert scientists. Over the next few years, The Hormel Institute will broaden its impact through innovative, world class research in its quest to improve human health.