Montse Sanchez-Cespedes holds a PhD in Biology from the University of Barcelona (1997).
Since the beginning of her career, Dr. Sanchez-Cespedes has dedicated herself to the study of molecular biology and genetics of human cancer, making significant contributions to our understanding of the disease's underlying mechanisms. During her postdoctoral research at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine (1997-2001), she developed groundbreaking research on lung cancer, particularly the identification of recurrent mutations in STK11 (published in Cancer Res, 2002). This discovery established STK11 as one of the most crucial tumor suppressor genes associated with this type of cancer.
In subsequent work, her team discovered the genetic inactivation of SMARCA4 in human cancer, a tumor suppressor gene, which codes for an ATPase within the chromatin remodeling SWI/SNF complex (published in Hum Mut, 2008). This finding shed light on the widespread phenomenon of SWI/SNF complex inactivation in various types of cancer. Additionally, her research uncovered the role of SMARCA4 in promoting stem cell features by impacting the function of nuclear receptors (published in EMBO Mol Med, 2012). Most recently, her group made a seminal discovery that SMARCA4-deficient tumors, extending beyond lung cancer, exhibit exceptional sensitivity to the action of KDM6A/B inhibitors, yielding profound clinical implications (published in Nat Com, 2021).
Dr. Sanchez-Cespedes's team has also reported the presence of genetic inactivation of MAX, the partner of the MYC oncogene, in small cell lung cancer, and of MGA, a member of the polycomb repressive complex ncPRC1.6 and a partner of MAX (published in Cancer Discov, 2014), which received recognition in an editorial in the same issue. More recently, her team unveiled that the absence of MAX restricts global MGA occupancy, leading to the repression of genes involved in various functions such as stem cell maintenance and DNA repair/replication (published in PNAS, 2021).
In her ongoing research, Dr. Sanchez-Cespedes and her team are actively investigating the genetic alterations that impede immune recognition, being the first to discover mutations of B2M in lung tumors (published in Clin Cancer Res 2017). The team also reported the effects of certain oncogenes affecting the response to IFNγ, including the genetic activation of MET (published in Clin Cancer Res 2018) or of MYC (published in Cell Rep Med 2023). Additionally, the team has made significant contributions to understanding the mechanisms underlying resistance to targeted therapies in lung cancer, which is of great importance in clinical practice (et al., 2020). Collaborative work has also resulted in key discoveries (Cancer Cell, 2012; Nature, 2015; Nat Med, 2016; Lancet Respir Med, 2018).