When Juliano Freitas was in high school, his grandmother passed away due to a metastatic tumor in her lung. It was that loss that ultimately led to his interest in metastasis, the topic he is studying for his doctoral degree here at FIU.
“That was the first time I heard the word ‘metastasis’,” Juliano said.
Juliano is a 5th-year biology doctoral student from Vicosa, Minas Gerais, a small college town in Brazil. He studied biology as an undergraduate at the Federal University of Vicoza (UFV). During his freshman year, he found and joined a cancer research laboratory that used melanoma as a model. It was then that he decided to study melanoma to try to gain a better understanding of metastasis that will hopefully lead to the creation of tools to prevent metastasis and save patients’ lives.
“Metastases are the main cause of death in patients with cancer,” Juliano said.
Juliano came to FIU to study melanoma metastasis. Melanoma is a rare but dangerous type of skin cancer that can spread throughout the body very easily. While working at a melanoma lab in France, the principle investigator referred him to Dr. Lidia Kos, who is well-known in the melanoma field and is the principle investigator at a lab here at FIU.
“I’m particularly interested in understanding the effects of endothelin,” Juliano said. Endothelins are molecules that are associated with inflammation and can affect a tumor in ways that promote the spread of cancer cells to different places within the body.
For his work in the melanoma field, Juliano was awarded the Young Investigator Award at the Fifteenth
International Conference on Endothelin, held in Prague in October 2017. At the conference, Juliano gave an oral presentation about the work he has been developing at FIU. His work was among the best, and he was chosen as one of the recipients by the conference’s organizing committee. The award was granted based on the quality of the abstract submitted for presentation at the conference. Recipients received a travel award of $750 allowing them to attend the conference.
After completing his doctoral degree, Juliano will apply for post-doctoral positions and will continue conducting research about melanoma metastasis. He plans to eventually apply for faculty positions and establish his own research group.
“I believe the research I am doing at FIU will answer some questions, but I will also open other new interrogations about melanoma metastasis,” he said.