The big questions in my laboratory are: How does breast cancer spread to other organs? How does it grow or not in distant organs? And how can we stop it?
Ana Luisa Correia received her BSc in Applied Biology from the University of Minho, Portugal, in 2006. She started her career in breast cancer research in the laboratory of Fernando Schmitt (University of Minho, 2006-2007), studying how dysfunctional cell-cell adhesions lead to breast cancer progression. In 2008, Ana Luisa joined the GABBA PhD program from the University of Porto, and she ventured to California to join the laboratory of Mina Bissell (Lawrence Berkeley Lab, USA, 2008-2013), exploring the role of specific components of the microenvironment (the matrix metalloproteinases, or MMPs) in breast cell invasion. Her discovery of an alternative to the classic paradigm of MMP catalytic activity was very relevant to the field, as it provided a compelling explanation for why drugs that target MMPs had failed dramatically to prevent tumor cells from invading the breast and spreading to distant sites in cancer patients. Keeping her focus on breast cancer, Ana Luisa started her postdoc in the laboratory of Mohamed Bentires-Alj (University of Basel, Switzerland, 2014-2021). She was interested in finding tissue-specific mechanisms that control the progression of breast cancer from dormant to metastatic. Her most significant contribution during this period was the discovery that natural killer (NK) cells sustain breast cancer dormancy in the liver through secretion of interferon gamma, whereas disruptions in liver physiology breach the NK cell barrier to metastasis. In December 2021, Ana Luisa established the Cancer Dormancy & Immunity Laboratory at the Champalimaud Foundation, where she leads an ambitious group of researchers who strive to develop scientific projects that help finding strategies to prevent metastases from ever surfacing.