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The unstoppable talent

Begoña Cánovas has always had aptitude for science, and it is obvious that her vocation is investigating and wanting to go further. A "la Caixa" scholarship rewarded her talent. Thanks to that, she was able to take a master's degree in Bioengineering at the Institut Químic de Sarrià (IQS), an internship at the MIT in Boston and a PhD at the Institut de Recerca Biomèdica de Barcelona (IRB), where she is now part of a team of cancer research that is making history.

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he day I received the first scholarship, I almost did not believe it. I felt true happiness and my parents jumped for joy when they found out. When you see all the applications, you feel like it’s a lottery and you think it’s never going to work for you, but it’s worth trying”, she advices. And, if she had not trusted herself a little, she would never have been able to share the corridors of MIT with some Nobel Prize winner. “There, I learned a lot as a scientist and as a person”, she explains.

But, above all, if she had not tried, she might have never contributed to the great scientific discovery she has been part of during her post-doctorate: her research team discovered that by cancelling the action of the p38 protein, a kind of lifesaver in charge of protecting tumour cells in breast cancer, therapies are much more effective. In the lab, combining classical chemotherapy with drugs capable of blocking this protein, human tumours implanted in mice have been considerably reduced.

For Begoña, all these years of study have been worthwhile because, thanks to them, she has earned the freedom to choose her own path, something difficult today for scientific researchers. “There are people who choose the card that they are given. But the work of so many years, the effort and a bit of luck allows you to have in your hand the entire deck“, she says. And her satisfaction is not only personal. “We know we’re not going to find a cure for cancer today”, she adds, “but to understand that your little contribution may end up helping millions of people in 20 years is incredible!”.

“The scholarships have allowed me to do things that I had never imagined being able to do, and to work on what I like best, surrounded by a team made of great professionals”. Her achievements are ours and her future, too. Because young researchers such as Begoña are the ones that, with their daily effort, struggle to make the world a better place. Therefore, giving them the opportunity to continue studying means, as a matter of fact, giving ourselves the opportunity to advance as a society.

Text:Patri Di Filippo
Photograph: Clara de Ramón

You can read more stories like this on ALMA, the social social media, a digital space devoted to the social field, which brings a new look at the present and the future of society, from an optimistic and diverse point of view, and from all the initiatives that “la Caixa” Foundation promote.