Stabilizing Proteins Might One Day Help Treat Cancer

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Peruvian scientist Yanymee Nimesia Guillen Quispe studies stabilizing proteins that might one day help treat cancer, while also strengthening scientific ties between South America and Asia through an organisation she co-founded, called SAPPIENS.

Guillen, who is currently a doctoral researcher at the Graduate School of Convergence Science and Technology at Seoul National University in South Korea, says that she is currently studying the interaction of proteins in breast cancer, in particular those involved in hypoxia.

Hypoxia is a state in which oxygen is not available in sufficient amounts in the tissues of the human body and proteins in pathways expressed in these conditions are important because they stimulate or increase the expression of other proteins that ultimately lead to cancer progression and spread.

“In my research I study proteins related to the hypoxia pathway and a protein with isomerize function, these proteins can be expressed in normal tissues or cancer tissues,” Guillen says, “by interacting, hypoxia pathway proteins and a protein with isomerize function, it is likely that it can stabilize hypoxia-related proteins and by stabilizing it, can decrease or controls the progression of cancer.”

She says that’s why it is important to study the interactions of proteins because some of them can stabilize others that have a certain role in breast cancer.

“By stabilizing them they can change their signaling, these proteins that stabilize can be considered as candidates for therapeutic treatments for cancer,” Guillen says.

Painful Lesson

Guillen grew up in Lima, Peru and says that since she was little, she always liked natural sciences and medicine, but she had to receive treatment for a burn resulting from her curiosity.

“I saw that my father burned some papers with liquid, I did not know what liquid it was, then I tried to imitate him and suddenly I made fire, although it burns me a little I understood that all liquids have different properties and not everything was water as I thought,” she says.

Guillen would go on to study nutrition at the Universidad Nacional Mayor de San Marcos, in Peru, before deciding to do a Masters of Science at Hallym University in South Korea (2015) through the Korean government scholarship (GKS) before being admitted to the Faculty of Molecular Medicine and Biopharmaceutical Sciences at Seoul National University to pursue her Ph.D.

“Although I already knew about science since I was a child; I did not have the full experience, being in Korea allowed me to discover the STEM subject and the fascinating science world,” she says.

Parallel to her scientific activities, Guillen also founded the Asia-Peru-Pacific Society of Researchers in STEM (SAPPIENS, for its abbreviation in Spanish), a Peruvian society that brings together Peruvian researchers in Asia and Oceania and who are doing Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM).

“This society is important because it allows the scientific work of Peruvian researchers to be made visible to the whole world and because we carry out scientific dissemination by sharing news related to science, we make visible the role of women in stem areas and we spread scholarships from this region for the Peruvian and Latin American population,” she says, “During the first years in Korea, I saw that there was no Peruvian or Latino group in Asia or Oceania that was dedicated to Science, despite that the majority of students, scholars in Asia and Oceania are from STEM but we did not have any representation.”

Another Latina scientist working on cancer is health researcher Sara Gomez-Trillos has helped to increase awareness and use of genetic counseling and testing for Latina women who are at increased risk for Hereditary Breast and Ovarian Cancer Syndrome (HBOC), work that may one day benefit her home country of Colombia.

Health researcher Sara Gomez-Trillos has helped to increase awareness and use of genetic counseling and testing for Latina women who are at increased risk for Hereditary Breast and Ovarian Cancer Syndrome (HBOC), work that may one day benefit her home country of Colombia.

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