Sónia Melo
Genetic Dynamics of Cancer Cells
Principal Researcher
Sonia Melo is Principal Investigator at IPATIMUP. She graduated in Biochemistry Porto Faculty of Sciences (2005) and developed her PhD research as part of the GABBA PhD Program at the Spanish National Institute of Health (CNIO) and Institut d'Investigació Biomèdica de Bellvitge, under the supervision of Manel Esteller (2010). She performed a four years postdoctoral training at Harvard Medical School (Boston, USA) and MD Anderson Cancer Center (Houston, USA) before moving to the Genetic Dynamics of Cancer Cells Department at IPATIMUP (2014). My research focus on cancer cells communication, tumor heterogeneity and exosomes. Achievements in miRNA biogenesis in cancer: - Reported for the first time a mutation in TARBP2 leading to impairment of miRNA maturation in cancer. - Reported for the first time a mutational event in XPO5, which traps pre-miRNAs in the nucleus inhibiting miRNA maturation. - Identified enoxacin, a drug that enhances miRNA maturation specifically in cancer cells allowing the target of cancer cells to induce apoptosis. Achievements in exosomes biology and cancer: - Reported for the first time the presence of genomic DNA in exosomes of serum of pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma patients, with implications in cancer prognosis, diagnosis and therapeutic intervention. - Described cell-independent miRNA biogenesis in exosomes from cancer cells and breast cancer patients, allowing exosomes secreted by cancer cells to alter the transcriptome of neighbor and distant cells in the body. - Reported for the first time as first-author of a manuscript published in Nature, a tumor-derived exosomes marker that has great utility as an early detection marker for pancreatic cancer. Sonia Melo is an expert on microRNAs and exosomes biology in cancer. She reported for the first time the presence of genomic DNA in exosomes and described for the first time a cell independent function of exosomes, to synthetize microRNAs. Sonias current research goals are the crosstalk between tumor cells mediated by exosomes and how these events lead to the overall dynamics of a tumor.