Dr Simona Polo aims to develop chemical blockers that target an enzyme involved in the growth of lung cancers.
Simona is the Director of the Molecular Machines in Signaling Pathways research program at IFOM in Italy. Her research has contributed to understanding how HIV enters cells and the basic biology of cells, which culminated in major breakthroughs in the field of research studying a signaling network that cells use to carry out day-to-day functions. In 2018, Simona was awarded the Gold Medal from the Mayor of Milan for outstanding achievements in biology.
Non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC), the most common type of lung cancer, has no cure and the overall survival rate is estimated to be only 20 per cent. It’s therefore critical that research uncovers new ways to treat the 1.7 million people diagnosed with NSCLC each year.
Dr Simona Polo and her team based in Milan study a network of proteins, called the ubiquitin network, and the role it plays in cancer. They are particularly interested in a group of enzymes in the network called E3 ligases, which help cells to coordinate how they respond to different stimuli in a precise and selective manner.
In this project, Dr Polo’s team are investigating one of these enzymes, called NEDD4, which is overactive in some lung cancer cells and thought to contribute to the growth and division of cells. They aim to develop chemical inhibitors that block the NEDD4 enzyme from working, as well as furthering our understanding of how this enzyme is linked to cancer. The results of Dr Polo’s research will be the first steps towards a brand new targeted therapy for NSCLC.