“I was able to meet people from different countries that were not only colleagues or roommates but became close friends” – Lorena Quirico’s Travel Fellowship

Dr Lopez-Berestein group

Lorena Quirico is an EACR Travel Fellowship recipient who returned from MD Anderson Cancer Center in the US in April 2022.

The EACR has joined forces with Worldwide Cancer Research to provide Travel Fellowships of up to €3,000 to enable early-career cancer researchers to gain new skills through a short-term visit to a lab or research group in another country.

You can read about other Travel Fellowship awardees and their experiences here.

Dr Lorena Quirico

Name: Lorena Quirico
Job title: Postdoctoral researcher
Home institute: Molecular Biotechnology Center, University of Torino, Italy
Host institute: MD Anderson Cancer Center, TX, USA
Dates of visit: January – April 2022
Research: My project is based on miR-148b and miR-214 targeted therapies. In particular, I attempted specific delivery of miR-148b to tumor cells by developing a chimeric axl-miR-148b aptamer able to bind axl+ but not axl- tumor cells (many tumor cells overexpress axl) with consequent miR-148b internalization and decreased malignancy. I also generated another conjugate, axl-miR-214sponge, to target axl+ miR-214 overexpressing tumor cells.  

Why did you decide to apply for an EACR Travel Fellowship?

I had the opportunity to work for 3 months in an important research institute such as the MD Anderson Cancer Center, but the travel expenses were high. The EACR Travel Fellowship was fundamental in supporting my visit with its founds. The application was easy and the reply was fast.

Why did you choose the host lab?

I chose to go to Dr. Lopez-Berestein’s lab because his lab is the first research unit that generated chemically modified anti-axl aptamers with a 72 hours stability. Starting from the molecules developed in his lab, I was able to modify the chimeric aptamers that I study. Moreover, we had a mutual collaborator, Dr. Vittorio de Franciscis who introduced me to Dr Lopez-Berestein.

“Our goal is to patent the new molecules studied and publish our work in a high-impact journal”

What were you able to do that you could not have achieved in your home lab?

Differently from the University of Torino, the MD Anderson Cancer Center had all the equipment necessary for the synthesis of my molecules such as the reagents and the machines, together with the help of expert people.

Did you take part in any interesting local or cultural activities?

Houston is a multicultural city. During my stay, I was able to meet people from different countries that were not only colleagues or roommates but become close friends and this was important for my personal growth.
I was also able to visit several museums such as the Museum of Natural Science, the Museum of Fine Arts, the Menil Collection. Importantly, I went to the Space Center, a dream come true.

Dr Lorena Quirico with Dr Lopez-Berestein

Did you have a personal mentor or anyone who particularly helped you? 

Dr Paola Amero, an instructor of the lab helped me a lot. She taught me how to purify aptamers and gave me some important suggestions. She’s a brilliant and hard-working scientist.
Prof. Lopez-Berestein is the PI of the lab with an incredible experience in the development of cancer therapeutics. He was always available for scientific discussion, present and supporting during my stay.

Does your lab plan to do any future collaboration or publication with the host lab? 

I am still collaborating with Dr Lopez-Berestein and his lab. Moreover, our goal is to patent the new molecules studied and publish our work in a high-impact journal. Hopefully, we will collaborate also on other projects over the coming months and years.

Want to find out more?

If you are interested in applying for the Travel Fellowship scheme, please click here for more information: EACR Travel Fellowships.