Laura Poillet-Perez Young Talent Award 2021 from the L’Oréal Foundation for Women in Science
Born in Montbéliard, Laura Poillet-Perez developed a passion for science at an early age. The presence of an autoimmune disease in her family led to her interest in biology.
While studying at the University of Franche-Comté in Besançon, she developed an interest in autophagy and cancer during a master’s course. Autophagy, which means “eating oneself”, is a physiological mechanism of destruction of the cell by its own lysosomes. Its deregulation is notably implicated in neurodegenerative diseases and cancer.
The role of this mechanism in cancer remains complex, however, since autophagy can both contribute to and prevent tumour growth and resistance to therapies. This makes autophagy a promising therapeutic target, but the exact mechanisms involved remain unknown to this day.
After her thesis, the doctoral student in cancer biology pursued the study of autophagy as a post-doctoral fellow at Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey in the laboratory of Dr. Eileen White in the United States. She then joined the team of the
METAMAL laboratory (Metabolism and therapeutic resistance in acute myeloid leukaemia) at the Toulouse Cancer Research Centre. Laura Poillet-Perez’s research consists in understanding the involvement of autophagy in the therapeutic resistance of leukemias. The results obtained during this study will make it possible to propose new treatments and avoid the risk of relapse, a major therapeutic challenge for this blood cancer with a high mortality rate.
Throughout her career, Laura Poillet-Perez has had the impression that she has to justify her presence and convince people that she has the necessary skills: “I felt that more was expected of me and I was often judged on my roles as mother and scientist, having to prove that I could succeed without one of them suffering,” confides the researcher. This is another challenge for the woman who admits that she likes “the challenge that my job gives me every day and the fact that my job has taught me to persevere and never give up.
“My objective is to better understand how cancer cells work in order to eradicate them and adapt treatments to each patient.”