On the morning of 30 May 2022, the scientific world received extremely gloomy news: prof. Raquel Seruca has passed away. Although not totally unexpected, Raquel’s death definitely came too soon. She left us as the causes of hereditary gastric and colorectal cancer were being unraveled, a huge legacy of hers. Raquel was indeed one of the scientists who played a key role both in establishing genetic instability as a molecular marker associated with stomach and colon cancers and in discovering that mutations in the E-cadherin gene cause hereditary carcinoma of the stomach. She contributed to unveil some of the finest molecular details of both these mechanisms.
She was born in Porto (Portugal) and studied medicine at the University of Porto where, in 1995, she obtained her PhD degree under the supervision of the excellent prof. Manuel Sobrinho Simões. After moving to the Netherlands on a research fellowship, she returned to Porto and set up her own group ‘Epithelial Interactions in Cancer’ at the Institute of Molecular Pathology and Immunology of the University of Porto (IPATIMUP), of which she later became deputy director.
Prestigious cancer institutions as well as the Portuguese government awarded Raquel with numerous grants to pursue her research on cancer. However, her PhD students were what she always prized most. She supervised very many students, including myself, whom she labeled as her ‘fastest PhD student’ in performing experiments. The great results in cancer research that we, her students, have achieved in our labs scattered around the world, are the most powerful testament to Raquel’s lifetime dedication to excellence in scientific research for the benefit of future generations. Raquel was an extraordinary woman who devoted herself to science with fervor and love. She will be always remembered as one of the most brilliant scientists and scientists’ trainers in the world. Much will certainly be written about her scientific achievements. However, Raquel was much more than that. Endowed with passion and enthusiasm, which at times seemed boundless, Raquel had the remarkable ability to make things happen and to transmit this ability to those who were lucky enough to be taught by her and to work with her.
It is my privilege here to pay homage to Raquel Seruca and remember her as an exemplary highly ranked scientist who changed paradigms in the molecular biology of gastro-intestinal cancers and managed to translate her discoveries up to the final clinical stage.
Raquel, on behalf of the European Cancer Prevention Organization, I thank you from the bottom of “my” heart for all you have done especially for my scientific and personal growth. You were exquisitely competent, had unlimited knowledge and profound humility and, above all, you were a true friend. The image of us sitting on the steps of IPATIMUP’s main entrance exchanging views on life will stay with me forever.
Giovanni Corso MD, PhD
Senior Editor of the European Journal of Cancer Prevention
Raquel Seruca (1962–2022)