New approaches to treating tumours

Dr Immaculada Martínez-Rovira works to develop new treatments for tumours that are resistant to traditional radiation therapy. She experiments with minibeam radiation therapy (MBRT), a technique that uses “chopped” x-ray beams to delay the growth of aggressive tumours without harming healthy tissue. Physics, biology and chemistry all play a role in her research, which is as innovative as it is promising!

What is the goal of your research?

My goal is to find a way to improve the treatment of certain cancers, in particular for patients with tumours that are resistant to radiation or adjacent to sensitive organs, and for certain kinds of paediatric tumours.

When did you know that you wanted to be a scientist?

I knew very early on that science was my calling. At 13, I was already eager to discover the universe through physics and took astronomy courses at local observatories. I’ve always had the passion and curiosity to understand the world and advance our knowledge of it, which led me to consider a career in research after graduating with a degree in physics.

What do you enjoy about science?

I love having the freedom to do research in really interesting and innovative topics, such as the new approaches of radiation therapy. I also love how science helps to satisfy my curiosity, and to expand my knowledge. I like feeling the joy of a new discovery and the desire to press on further. I also appreciate the opportunity to travel and work with researchers from around the world.

In your opinion, what is crucial when addressing a complex research issue?

Scientific creativity is essential, because it is what enables you to ask the right questions, to devise and design new concepts and original scientific approaches. At the same time, a big part of research is rational, methodical work that makes incremental progress by building on the work of previous scientific studies. This second aspect is just as important as the first.

Tell us a little about what you do in your spare time.

I love to travel and discover new cultures, to meet people who are very different from myself. I have a passion for learning new languages, which allow me to communicate with the world. I also have a real fondness for photography and music.

Dr Immaculada Martínez-Rovira received a L’Oréal-UNESCO For Women in Science Fellowship in 2014.

For Women in Science

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