44428-Perna, Fabiana

Fabiana Perna, PhD, MD

Associate Professor of Medicine

IB 544C
Indianapolis, IN


Fabiana Perna a physician-scientist focused on the pathogenesis and treatment of hematological malignancies. She holds a full-time faculty position in tenure-track as an independent investigator in the Department of Medicine, Division of Hematology/Oncology at Indiana University School of Medicine.

Dr. Perna completed clinical training as hematologist under the mentorship of Dr. Bruno Rotoli, leading hematologist in Italy. In 2008, she joined the laboratory of Dr. Stephen Nimer at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, where she acquired scientific skills to model myeloid malignancies with cord blood CD34+ cells. During that time, she contributed investigating the role of several recurring epigenetic mutations in normal and malignant hematopoiesis, while completing a PhD program. These studies were published on several high-impact scientific journals (Cancer Cell, Science, Blood, Cell Stem Cells, Nature Biotech, PNAS etc) and she was awarded an American Italian Cancer Foundation fellowship, the clinical fellowship of Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, the Translational Research Training in Hematology (TRTH) and a competitive American Society of Hematology (ASH) Scholar Award in the clinical/translational category.

At the end of 2012, she joined the laboratory of Dr. Michel Sadelain, one of the pioneers of Chimeric Antigen Receptor (CAR) T-cell therapy targeting CD19 antigen in lymphoid malignancies, where she worked as a senior research scientist. Given the exciting times in cancer immunotherapy and her previous expertise in myeloid malignancies, she developed a compelling platform, which integrates proteomics and transcriptomics to unbiasedly identify CAR T cells targets for Acute Myeloid Leukemia (Perna F et al., Cancer Cell 2017). From 2016 to 2018 she was the PI on a Technology Development Fund from MSKCC of $500K.

In June 2019, Dr. Perna joined Indiana University School of Medicine as an independent investigator with her own lab space and large start-up funds. Here, she was awarded one grant from the Leukemia Research Foundation, two internal grants from IU School of Medicine and one large award from a pharma to develop novel CAR T-cell therapy. Given her expertise, she has recently discussed CAR T-cell target selection (Perna F. Molecular Therapy 2021) and is active member of the ASH Immunotherapy Committee. She holds a joint faculty appointment in the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, and is co-inventor of multiple patents that have been licensed. She also takes care of patients with hematologic malignancies in the Bone Marrow Transplantation (BMT) unit of IU Health University Hospital and IU Simon Comprehensive Cancer Center.

Key Publications

Perna F. Safety starts with selecting the targets. Mol Ther 2021 Feb 3;29(2):424-425

Haubner S, Perna F, Kohnke T, Schmidt C, Berman S, Augsberger C, Schnorfeil FM, Krupka C, Lichtenegger S, Liu X, Kerbs P, Schneider S, Metzeler KH, Spiekermann K, Hiddemann W, Greif PA, Herold T, Sadelain M, Subklewe M. Coexpression profile of leukemic stem cell markers for combinatorial targeted therapy in AML. Leukemia 2018 Jun 26.

Boulad F, Shore T, van Besien K, Minniti C, Barbu-Stevanovic M, Wiener Fedus S, Perna F, Greenberg J, Guarneri D, Nandi V, Mauguen A, Yazdanbakhsh K, Sadelain M, Shi P. Safety and efficacy of plerixafor dose escalation for the mobilization of CD34+ hematopoietic progenitor cells in patients with sickle cell disease: interim results. Haematologica 2018 Feb 1.

Perna F, Berman S, Soni R, Mansilla-Soto J, Eyquem J, Hamieh M, Hendrickson R, Brennan C, Sadelain M. Integrating proteomics and transcriptomics for systematic combinatorial chimeric antigen receptor therapy of AML. Cancer Cell 2017 Oct 9;32(4):506-519.e5.

Perna F and Sadelain M. Myeloid leukemia switch as immune escape from CD19 CAR therapy. Translational Cancer Research 2017 August 5(S2):S221-S225

Titles & Appointments

  • Associate Professor of Medicine
  • Adjunct Associate Professor Of Microbiology & Immunology
  • Education
    2013 PhD University of Naples Federico II
    2004 MD University of Naples Federico II
  • Research
    The goal of the Perna lab is to develop precision immunotherapy by investigating the cancer cell surface proteome. By mining composite high-throughput expression data in genetic models and primary patient samples with a pipeline that Dr. Perna established for Chimeric Antigen Receptor (CAR) target discovery, targets identified will be integrated into a personalized therapeutic platform, taking into account patient genetic mutational background. The lab has an expertise in virally expressing key genetic and epigenetic mutations in primary cells and performing large scale multiomic studies, including cell surface-specific proteomic studies followed by label-free and multiplexed targeted Mass-Spectrometry analysis, single-cell RNA-seq analysis and human xenograft in immune-deficient mice. We want to investigate how essential genetic and epigenetic determinants of hematologic malignancies shape the cell surfaceome, thus providing targets for promoting leukemogenesis and use of precision immunotherapy.

Research Labs

Faculty research at IU School of Medicine is transforming health. Details about the medical research being conducted in faculty labs throughout IU School of Medicine are available in the Research section of this site.

Faculty Labs