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Dimitra P. Vageli, PhD

Research Scientist of Surgery (Otolaryngology)

Biography

Dimitra P. Vageli, Ph.D., is a Research Scientist in the Department of Surgery, Otolaryngology at Yale School of Medicine, with extensive experience in molecular oncology, molecular pathology, and cancer biology. She earned her Bachelor's Degree in Sciences, specializing in Biology, and completed her Diploma Thesis in Biochemistry at the University of Patras, Greece. Following her graduation, she was awarded a Post-graduate Scholarship in Radiation Biology and Radiation Physics by the National Centre for Scientific Research “Demokritos” in Athens, Greece, and subsequently received her Ph.D. in Molecular Oncology and Biotechnology from the Medical School of Crete, University of Crete, Greece and subsequently for over ten years delved into Molecular Pathology. Alongside her research endeavors, she has contributed to academia through teaching at the Medical School of Thessaly, Greece, and authoring educational monographs. In 2013, Dr. Vageli joined the Yale Head and Neck Cancer research program to investigate the etiopathogenetic mechanisms of neoplastic transformation of the mucosa under exposure to risk factors, proposing a mechanism associated with chronic inflammation. Her initial findings, supported by the Ohse Research Grants (2013-2014 and 2014-2015), demonstrated the oncogenic effect of acidic bile reflux in hypopharyngeal carcinogenesis. This pioneering research documented for the first time the oncogenic potential of acidic or weakly acidic bile on the mucosa of the upper aerodigestive tract, elucidating a mechanistic pathway. Dr. Vageli's in vivo studies revealed the progressive oncogenic effects of acidic bile, characterized by DNA damage, significant deregulations of mRNA and miRNA phenotypes mediated through the NF-κB pathway, and histological changes such as epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition, early dysplastic alterations, and invasive cancer. Her research further explored the roles of other transcription factors, such as STAT3 and EGFR, in early oncogenic events in primary cells exposed to components of GERD. Additionally, she demonstrated that chronic exposure to tobacco smoke components accelerates malignant transformation in the upper aerodigestive tract and disrupts DNA repair mechanisms and specific miRNAs. Dr. Vageli has also investigated the effect of several pharmacologic and dietary inhibitors, on preventing or suppressing the carcinogenic process. These inhibitors have shown promise in mitigating the progression of cancer by targeting specific molecular pathways involved in tumorigenesis. Currently, Dr. Vageli focuses on characterizing the inflammatory and cancer-specific molecular profiles of the mucosa and its microenvironment in the early stages of cancer, using advanced technologies, such as spatial gene expression analyses. She is particularly interested in identifying how early oncogenic events can be modulated by small regulatory molecules. In parallel, she aims to discover new diagnostic biomarkers through non-invasive methods for the early detection and monitoring of precancerous and cancerous lesions.


Education & Training

  • PhD
    University of Crete (1998)

Honors & Recognition

AwardDate
Ohse Research Award2015
Ohse Research Award2014

Departments & Organizations