Dr Sara Ferluga

Dr Sara Ferluga

Research Fellow

Peninsula Medical School (Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry)


Post-Doctoral Researcher


My training startedas a PhD student at the International Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology (ICGEB) in Trieste, Italy, were I worked under the supervision of Dr. V. Venturi. My research focused on deciphering the role of quorum-sensing in the interaction between host plant and bacterial pathogen. The PhD title was awarded at The Open University Research School of London. After, I joined the research group of Prof. R. Gennaro at the University of Trieste where I worked in the field of human antimicrobial peptides. In 2010 I moved to United States joining Dr. Debinski’s lab at the Wake Forest University School of Medicine. Here I built my knowledge on brain tumours, working primarily on glioblastoma (GBM). My project aimed to develop a novel therapy targeting specifically the Eph family of receptor tyrosine kinases which are highly overexpressed in GBM, using recombinant EphrinA-based cytotoxins. Two EphrinAs, that are the natural EphAs ligands, were mutagenized and conjugated with a truncated form of the Pseudomonas exotoxin A. The produced cytotoxins potently killed GBM tumour cells with an IC50~10-11mol/L. One of them is already in Phase I clinical trial, in a combinatorial therapy on the canine animal model. In Dr. Debinski’s lab I was introduced to translational research on brain tumours, I learnt several cell biology techniques and I improved my expertise in recombinant protein expression and purification.

Professional membership

Since 2016 - EACR, European Association for Cancer Research

Since 2013 -  Biochemical Society, UK

Since 2012 - Society of Neuro-Oncology 

Since 2011 - AACR, American Association for Cancer Research 

Research interests

My research interest focuses on brain tumour in the contest of molecular targeted therapy. Currently, I am working mainly on meningiomas, the most common brain tumour. We performed I wide screening using a proteomic approach in an effort of finding novel molecular determinants specific for meningioma tumours that can be used to develop more effective therapies.

Grants & contracts

Eric ReidMethodology Fund

ProjectTitle: “Phosphoproteome analysis of frozen primary brain tumors” 

Herpai D, Ferluga S and Debinski W. (2015) Multi-compartmental targeting of glioblastoma through the EphA3 receptor. Neuro-oncology November 17(suppl 5):v23-v23

Sonawane P, Ferluga S, Herpai D and Debinski W.(2015) Single-agent targeting of Eph receptors A2, A3, B2 and interleukin-13 receptor alpha 2 in Glioblastoma. Neuro-oncology November 17(suppl 5): v36-v36

BociekK, Ferluga S, Benincasa M,Mardirossian M, Tossi A, Gennaro R and Scocchi M. (2015) Lipopolysaccharide Phosphorylation by the WaaY Kinase Affects the Susceptibility of Escherichia coli to the Human Antimicrobial Peptide LL-37. J Biol Chem. 7;290(32):19933-41

Ferluga S and Debinski W. (2014) Ephs and Ephrins in malignant gliomas. Growth Factors 32(6):1-12

Ferluga S , Gibo D and DebinskiW (2014) EphA3 receptor is a molecular target expressed in multiple compartments of GBM. Neuro-oncology November 16 (suppl 5):v25-v25

FerlugaS , Hantgan R, Goldgur Y, Himanen JP, NikolovDB, Debinski W. (2013) Biological and structural characterization of glycosylation on ephrin-A1, a preferred ligand for EphA2 receptor tyrosinekinase. J Biol Chem.  288(25):18448-57 

Lema Tomé CM* and Palma E*, Ferluga S, Lowther WT, Hantgan R,Wykosky J, Debinski W. (2012) Structural and functional characterization of monomeric EphrinA1 binding site to EphA2 receptor. JBiol Chem. 20; 287(17):14012-22.

* Co-authors

Mattiuzzo M, Bertani I, Ferluga S, Cabrio L, Bigirimana J,Guarnaccia C, Pongor S, Maraite H, Venturi V. (2011) The plant pathogen Pseudomonas fuscovaginae contains two conserved quorum sensing systems involved in virulence and negatively regulated by RsaL and the novel regulator RsaM. Environ Microbiol. 13(1):145-62

FerlugaS and Venturi V. (2009) OryR is a LuxR family protein involved in inter-kingdom signalling between pathogenic Xanthomonas oryzae pv. oryzae and rice. J. Bacteriol.; 191(3):890-7.

Ferluga S, Steindler L and Venturi V. (2008) N-acyl homoserine lactone quorum sensing in Gram-negativerhizobacteria. In Secondary Metabolites in Soil Ecology. Vol. 14. Karlovsky, P.(ed). Heidelberg, Germany: Springer, pp. 69-92. 

FerlugaS , Bigirimana J, Höfte M, and Venturi V. (2007) A LuxR homologue of Xanthomonas oryzae pv. oryzae is required for optimal rice virulence. Molecular Plant Pathology 8: 529-538.