Where Ideas grow

American society recognizes graduate student of i3S

PhD student Catarina Marques was recently awarded the “Graduate Student Prize” by the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (ASBMB) for her work in the area of sugars present in gastric cancer cells and how they influence evolution of this oncological disease.

The work, called “Exostosin-like 2 Abrogation Promotes Heparan Sulfate Biosynthesis and Switches Cancer Cell Signalling Towards an Invasive Phenotype” and developed in the group “Glycobiology in Cancer” at the Institute of Research and Innovation in Health of the University of Porto (i3S), was initially selected for oral presentation at the Annual Meeting of that American scientific society, and was later took the prize from its peers.

This study, explains the young researcher Catarina Marques, “aims to understand the mechanisms of synthesis of sugar chains (glycosaminoglycans) in gastric cancer cells and how aberrant changes in the structure of these sugars influence the development and progression of the disease”. Until now, she adds, “we have found that the inhibition of two enzymes involved in the synthesis of these sugars alters the glycosylation on the surface of cells, modifying different signaling pathways and increasing their motility and invasion capacity. These characteristics are associated with more aggressive cell phenotypes and cancer progression”.

For Catarina Marques, participating in this international event “was a challenging experience, but very enriching. In addition to expanding my knowledge in the field of biology and biochemistry, I had the opportunity to contribute to the dissemination of scientific knowledge, sharing and discussing the work we develop with researchers from the most varied areas of research. Experiencing this environment, for the first time as a PhD student, encouraged me to keep my curiosity and to face the next challenges with enthusiasm”.

Attending the first year of the MCBiology doctoral program, Catarina Marques is developing her work under the guidance of researcher Ana Magalhães, in the i3S group “Glycobiology in Cancer”, led by Celso Reis. MCBiology is jointly organized by the Abel Salazar Institute of Biomedical Sciences (ICBAS), the Faculty of Sciences of the University of Porto (FCUP), and i3S.