Congratulations to Professor Victoria Sanz-Moreno from Barts Cancer Institute at Queen Mary University of London who has received the Estela Medrano Memorial Award from the Society of Melanoma Research (SMR), which honours women who have made major contributions in the fight against melanoma.
The award will be presented to Professor Sanz-Moreno on Monday 17th October at the SMR Congress 2022, taking place in Edinburgh, where she will also deliver a talk about her research titled ‘Cytoskeletal remodelling in melanoma: cell migration and beyond.’
Speaking of the award, Professor Sanz-Moreno said:
“I am extremely honoured to receive this prestigious Award in memory of the very inspiring Estela Medrano. She was a true pioneer who conducted seminal work in several areas of melanoma biology. Moreover, she was a devoted and nurturing mentor. These are qualities in a scientist that I deeply admire, and that I hope to live up to. I am also very grateful to all the past and current lab members. It is their passion for science that is being recognised with this Award.”
Professor Sanz-Moreno joined Queen Mary’s BCI in 2018 as Professor of Cancer Cell Biology. Her research on melanoma (an aggressive type of skin cancer) focuses on understanding how tumour cells spread around the body. In particular, the team is looking at the role of specific proteins that remodel the cell’s internal scaffolding or ‘cytoskeleton,’ and control the processes that allow tumour cells to break away and move around the body.
As well as studying cancer spread (metastasis), Professor Sanz-Moreno and her team are also investigating how a group of proteins called Rho GTPases and cytoskeletal remodelling contribute to drug resistance and tumour-promoting inflammation. The team’s ultimate aim is to determine whether the cytoskeleton of cancer cells can be manipulated to improve the efficacy of cancer therapies.
Research from the Sanz-Moreno team has contributed significantly to the field of melanoma and cancer research, providing valuable insights on the mechanisms of melanoma spread.
In 2020, the Sanz-Moreno team published research findings in Nature Communications, which revealed that there is a highly invasive subset of melanoma cells located around the edge of the tumour that not only disseminate through the body very efficiently, but are also very successful at forming new tumours.
In the previous year, the team found that such aggressive melanoma cells are able to manipulate the immune system to their advantage. As a result, immune cells that are supposed to recognise and destroy cancer cells actually behave differently and support the growth and spread of the tumour (Cell, 2019). Moreover, this very invasive and aggressive subset of melanoma cells are quite prone to escape current anti-melanoma therapies, posing a risk for melanoma patients (Cancer Cell, 2020).
Professor Sanz-Moreno’s team also proposed the use of a new class of drugs - Migrastatics - as potential anti-cancer therapies to stop metastatic dissemination, in work that was published in the British Journal of Cancer in 2021.
At the SMR Congress 2022, Professor Sanz-Moreno will discuss these findings, the potential clinical implications and possible therapeutic approaches for melanoma patients.
Professor Ashani Weeraratna, President, SMR; Bloomberg Distinguished Professor and Chair of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at Johns Hopkins University said:
“Dr Sanz-Moreno’s work has involved innovative technologies and ground-breaking discoveries into the changes of the ECM and cytoskeleton of melanoma. This work on the biophysical changes in the tumour microenvironment is highly impactful. Further Dr. Sanz-Moreno is a role model and mentor for women in science, and was a very natural choice for this award.”
Professor Marisol Soengas, Vice President of the Spanish Association for Cancer Research (ASEICA) and Head of the Melanoma Group at the Spanish National Cancer Research Centre (CNIO), who will be introducing Professor Sanz-Moreno at the SMR Congress 2022 said:
“Having known Dr. Estela Medrano, I am sure she would be delighted by the decision of honouring Dr. Victoria (Vicky) Sanz-Moreno with an award on her name. Vicky captures main key values that Dr. Medrano represented: solid science that has opened multiple avenues of research in melanoma initiation, progression and resistance to therapy; a cheerful and collaborative attitude; a genuine commitment to promoting young scientists, and also importantly, a keen interest to supporting women in science. Very well deserved recognition indeed”.
About the Estela Medrano Memorial Award
The Estela Medrano Memorial Award was established by SMR in 2010 in memory of Estela Medrano, who was a leader in the study of TGFb-related signaling in melanoma as well as senescence. The award was originally given to the keynote lecturer at the SMR annual international congress, until 2013 when the decision was made to use the award to recognise women who have made major contributions in the fight against melanoma, to fully honour Estela's memory.