Actualité - Innovation

Charlène Estrada wins the prestigious L’Oréal-Unesco for Women in Science fellowship

Anne Coppola
This doctoral student at Institut Curie is the lucky winner of the L’Oréal-Unesco fellowship awarded this year to 35 young women researchers. An award that highlights her brilliant work on melanoma.
Charlène Estrada

Fondation L'Oréal / Jean-Charles Caslot

I am very curious by nature and I have always been attracted to the sciences! 

declares Charlène Estrada, currently a doctoral student in the Normal and pathological signaling unit: from the embryo to innovative cancer therapies, headed by Simon Saule at Orsay/Institut Curie.

This thirst for knowledge and for the understanding of how the human body works became stronger towards the end of her teenage years, when she experienced one of her loved ones suffering from pediatric cancer. "That was a deciding factor in the path I chose to follow; I realized that it could actually happen, and that above all it can be cured, and that is where my interest in oncology began", she explains.

This young woman then embarked on scientific studies, with great success: A Bachelor's degree in biology from the University of Versailles Saint Quentin-en-Yvelines, Ecole Normale Supérieure at Cachan, where she specialized in oncology, and a Masters 2 degree in genetics from the Université Paris Diderot. She came to Institut Curie for her internships and to prepare her thesis, in the laboratory of Alain Eychène and Celio Pouponnot.

Charlène Estrada's research focuses on melanoma, a particularly aggressive tumor that results from the transformation of melanocytes, the cells responsible for pigmentation of the skin. Understanding the cellular and molecular mechanisms that cause it is essential in improving prevention, early diagnosis and treatment of these tumors. But we are still a long way from considering treatments. "For the moment I am carrying out basic research with the aim of better understanding how the cells work and how they become tumor cells. I like this idea of research without necessarily knowing where I am headed, without preconceived notions."

The subject of her thesis? A protein from the RAF protein family, known as ARAF, which has not yet been studied in great depth. "My work involved searching for the partner of this protein, via the proteomic mass spectrometry platform at Institut Curie. This helped me identify, for the first time, a protein that is partner to ARAF, known for playing a crucial role in melanoma. I am currently studying how these two proteins behave and influence the melanoma cells." The clarification of their interaction should help to better understand how these proteins act together in the biology of melanoma. 

I love my work, because each day I learn new things, always with the aim of going further. One day we think we know something, and the next day we realize it's not true. I love this idea of always questioning what we did the day before!

A passionate researcher, Charlène Estrada is also motivated by a desire to pass on her scientific knowledge. "I have been lucky to give classes in developmental biology on a contracted basis at the University of Versailles Saint Quentin-en-Yvelines; I love teaching and I dream of one day becoming a university lecturer!" For now, she's thinking about her post-doctoral fellowship: "I would like to specialize in bioinformatics since it's a crucial part of research today," she tells us. "Ideally I'd like to do this post-doc in a warm country, by the ocean with lots of sun... where melanoma cases are increasing? So why not Australia..."

Le DP et le CP de la Fondation L'Oréal