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‘CNIO Friends’ promotes research into nanoparticles and cell division


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Sebastián Thompson and Carolina Maestre Sebastián Thompson and Carolina Maestre, new 'CNIO Friends' postdoctoral researchers. /CNIO

This philanthropic initiative has already funded five post-doctoral contracts and has just set up a pre-doctoral grant

The new recipients of the postdoctoral contracts are Carolina Maestre, who will investigate the mechanisms of cell division in tumours, and Sebastián Thompson, who works in the field of nanotechnology and its application in cancer treatment

The initiative now includes more than 1,000 donors, including individuals and legal entities – associations, foundations and companies –

CNIO Friends seeks to join efforts for cancer research, under the slogan ‘More research less cancer’. Thanks to this initiative and its more than 1,000 donors, the CNIO has launched the CNIO Friends scholarships and contracts programme to attract new talent. Two new postdoctoral researchers have now been granted one of these contracts: Carolina Maestre, from the Cell Division and Cancer Group, led by Marcos Malumbres, and Sebastián Thompson, from the Growth Factors, Nutrients and Cancer Group, led by Nabil Djouder.

“I want to thank everyone who has collaborated with this initiative, which is allowing me to continue my scientific career in Spain,” said Maestre. “I would like to encourage everyone to collaborate, in any way they can, because in the long run, we will all benefit from the results obtained”, she added.

Having graduated with an honours degree in Biology and Biochemistry, she went on to receive the Extraordinary Doctorate Prize at Salamanca University in 2009 for her research into the aberrant re-activation mechanisms of the cell cycle that are responsible for neuron loss in certain neurodegenerative diseases or following a stroke. In 2011, she joined the Wolfson Institute for Biomedical Research (University College London) where she studied the regulation of the energy metabolism during entry in the cell cycle in cancer. Since 2014 she has been a member of the CNIO’s Cell Division and Cancer Group, led by Marcos Malumbres. 

“Since then, my research has focused on studying the progression of mitosis, specifically the potential of certain mitotic proteins as new therapeutic targets in the treatment of cancer”, explains Maestre. “We have identified a molecule that regulates mitosis and which is involved in the survival of tumour cells during their division, and we believe that if we can manage to inhibit its function, we could attack tumour proliferation. So, our aim is to evaluate the therapeutic relevance of inhibiting this molecule in cancer cells, by using genetic models and working with the CNIO’s Experimental Therapies Programme”.

Thompson graduated with an honours degree in Chemistry from Buenos Aires University. He completed his doctorate at the City University of New York (CUNY) on cancer-fighting therapies using light and nanotechnology. Having spent time at the Barcelona Institute of Photonic Sciences and Northwestern University in Chicago, he joined CNIO in February of 2017.

His work focuses on nanoparticles, particularly on resolving some of the difficulties associated with their usage. “In recent years – he explains – the greatest problem has been locating the nano-sized chemical compounds (nanoparticles) in the tumour (this is the reason nanotechnologies are still not used to treat cancers in humans). Only 1% of what we are injecting is reaching the tumour. The rest reaches the liver or other healthy organs”. 

Thanks to CNIO Friends, he will continue working “to find the way of getting as many of these nanoparticles as possible to the tumours. Finding the means of getting more nanoparticles to tumours would pave the way for the application of the latest advances in nanotechnology to the treatment of cancers”. 

“Initiatives such as Amigos del CNIO enable certain scientists to be rewarded on the basis of the potential of their projects and their level of innovation. From a donor’s perspective, seeing that their money is being used for such a desired and desirable goal is very enriching”, said Thompson.

About CNIO Friends

The CNIO Friends initiative emerged at the end of 2014 as a means of raising money to fund different research projects developed in the Spanish National Cancer Research Centre, so as to continue efforts to improve the diagnosis and treatment of cancer. To date, this association has over 1,000 donors, whose generosity has enabled five post-doctoral grants to be launched (in addition to the ones mentioned here, one additional grant created through an agreement with Juegaterapia) to study this disease.

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