Dr. Ana Igea Fernández specialized in Biomedicine during her bachelor degree in Biology (2004, Universitat Pompeu Fabra, Barcelona) and worked as an undergraduate student in different labs.
In July 2004 she started her PhD in the laboratory of Dr. Raul Mendez at CRG (Barcelona) working on the translational regulation of mRNAs and how this fine-tuning can control the protein expression in a cell. They characterize CPEB4 and showed that CPEB1 activates the translation of CPEB4 mRNA, which, in turn, replaced CPEB1 to complete meiosis. They also used mammalian cell lines to understand and decipher the molecular mechanisms that dictate alternative 3’UTR formation and the temporal and spatial translation control of specific mRNAs during cell cycle progression in mammalian cells. This is important as mRNA translational control by CPEBs is reactivated in cancer.
In 2010 she moved to the laboratory of Dr. Angel Nebreda at IRB Barcelona where she was working on several distinct different projects and collaborating with scientists from different fields, to help to set up new lines of research. But her main interest is the role of p38 MAPK in cancer induction, progression and metastasis. In colon cancer, they discovered a dual role of p38α on tumor initiation and progression. p38α suppresses inflammation-associated epithelial damage and tumorigenesis but contributes to the proliferation and survival of tumor cells (Cancer Cell 2014). Their results also demonstrate that p38 MAPK could be a good new therapeutic target in cancer using different patient derived xenografts (PDXs) from colon tumors (Oncotarget 2015). In breast cancer, it seems that p38α prevents tumor formation and is important in tumor maintenance. They saw that p38α regulated the fate of luminal progenitor cells and downregulation in mammary epithelial cells reduces tumor burden, which correlates with decreased numbers of tumor-initiating cells (Stem Cell Reports 2018).
They also used other approaches to tackle cancer cells. For example, they published a method to predict/calculate pathway crosstalk, and they validated in vitro and in vivo some of the drug pairs (Cancer Research, 2017). When compared with high-throughput combinatorial studies without computational prioritization, their approach offers a significant advance capable of uncovering broad-spectrum utility across many cancer types.
In June 2017 she joined the Immunology group lead by Prof. África González to study and characterize the role of the immune system in different infections and disease, especially cancer.