dr. Inna Afonina (PhD)
staff scientist - Unit of Molecular Signal Transduction in Inflammation, VIB Center for Inflammation Research, UGent Department of Biomedicial Molecular Biology
Principal Investigator: prof. Rudi Beyaert (PhD)
I study molecular signaling mechanisms in cancer cells and immune cells, which eventually contribute to the regulation of tumor cell proliferation and survival. In this context, I focus on NF-kappaB signaling, which is often constitutively activated in both solid and hematopoietic malignancies, and contributes to the development and progression of cancer. NF-kappaB signaling regulates the transcriptional activation of genes associated with several hallmarks of cancer such as cell proliferation, suppression of apoptosis, angiogenesis, metastasis and inflammation. A better understanding of this pathway and its regulation can contribute to the identification of novel therapeutic targets. In my research, I make use of several in vitro cell models and the mouse as in vivo model.
I have completed my PhD studies in the laboratory of Molecular and Cellular Biology in Trinity College Dublin, Ireland under the supervision of Prof. Seamus J Martin, who is a prominent figure in the field of cell death and inflammation research. In the course of my PhD work I characterized the inflammatory cytokine IL-1α as a novel substrate for the cell death protease granzyme B, for which I have received the National Researcher of the year award (Roche) in 2011.
Since 2013, I have been working as an FWO postdoctoral researcher in the lab of Prof. Beyaert in IRC focusing on the characterization of MALT1/CARD14-mediated signaling in inflammation. Additionally, I co-supervised the project with a focus on the development of a novel IL-33 antagonist (IL-33trap) and characterization of its anti-inflammatory function.
Now, together with my colleagues, I am studying constitutive NF-kappaB activation in epithelial carcinoma (particularly prostate cancer) and exploring novel possibilities for therapeutic targeting in carcinoma.