Researcher Spotlight: Alexia Martinez de Paz, PhD

Joan & Sanford I. Weill Medical College of Cornell University

Cell-fate transitions (a biological process in which the function of a cell gets specialized, reprogrammed, or altered) during the germinal center (GC) reaction are dependent on complex signaling pathways that remodel the epigenome to drive specific transcriptional programs. The importance of tight regulation of these transitions is highlighted by the fact that most B-cell lymphomas arise from GC B-cells and bear highly recurrent mutations of genes involved in signaling pathways and epigenetic regulation. “Despite this crucial role in lymphomagenesis, little is known on the specific mechanisms driving the epigenome response to immune signals,” Dr. Martinez de Paz explains.

Dr. Martinez de Paz’ LRF grant project focuses on better understanding this aspect of B-cell differentiation and how its dysregulation promotes the development of lymphoma. Dr. Martinez de Paz’s research suggests that targeting these pathways using small molecules has promising potential for the treatment of specific lymphoma subtypes.  “The completion of this study could be tremendously beneficial for the development of more targeted therapies for lymphoma patients,” she says.

Dr. Martinez completed her PhD at Bellvitge Biomedical Research Institute.  It was there when her fascination with lymphoma research arose and intensified, and she learned about the intricacies of cells and their response to external stimuli. Over the next decade, Dr. Martinez de Paz sees herself becoming an independent investigator focused on the intersection of epigenetics and lymphoma research. “LRF’s support represents a strong contribution to my research plan and allows me to spend the next few years working in this exciting collaborative project at Weill Cornell Medicine,” she shares.