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PhD student wins Excellence Award with 2023 article

Doctoral student Lídia Faria, who is developing research work at the i3S, won the Award for Excellence for articles from 2023 in the Research category, awarded by the scientific journal Disease Models and Mechanisms. Published in February 2023, the article was featured on the cover and describes the development of an “avatar” fly with the aim of understanding how benign breast lesions become cancerous. The findings allow us to identify women who are most at risk of developing breast cancer.

Member of the Cytoskeletal Regulation & Cancer research group, led by Florence Janody, the student in the Doctoral Program in Molecular and Cellular Biology at the U. Porto recognizes that seeing the work awarded a thousand pounds and, above all, being considered the most important published by the journal during 2023 “is very rewarding and encourages us to continue doing our best”.

Breast tumors can be classified as benign or malignant. Benign tumors are characterized by the presence of an abnormal mass of noncancerous cells that are usually unproblematic. Despite this, all women diagnosed with non-cancerous breast lesions receive pharmacological treatment with strong side effects because doctors currently cannot predict which non-cancerous tumors will or will not progress to malignancy. There is, therefore, a clear need to define new tests capable of identifying women who will benefit from treatment and exclude those who do not need to undergo unnecessary and harmful treatments.

To achieve this goal, three i3S research groups led by researchers Florence Janody, Joana Paredes, and Eurico Morais de Sá created an avatar fly that contains a human gene that encodes P-cadherin, a molecule that is present in large quantities such as in non-cancerous cells in breast cancer cells.

The authors showed that fly cells humanized with P-cadherin behave in a similar way to human breast cells that suffer from the development of cancer and also identified that the molecules MRTF-A and SRF, when activated by P-cadherin, convert non-cancerous cells to cancer cells.

The presence of P-cadherin, MRTF-A and SRF molecules in non-cancerous breast tumors could predict their evolution into cancerous cells, which will allow the development of new approaches to more effectively identify women with precancerous lesions who will truly benefit from more invasive therapeutic interventions.

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