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Joanna Correia Lima

Post-doctoral Fellow

research interests

Tissue-specific oncogenesis following von Hippel Lindau (VHL) inactivation.

I am a Postdoctoral Scientist in Cancer and Hypoxia Biology under the supervision of Professor Sir Peter Ratcliffe. The question we are trying to answer is to define and understand the early events following cancer mutations in cells and how this can affect and induce tumour formation. We are focusing on clear cell renal cell carcinoma (ccRCC), which is driven by biallelic inactivation of the von Hippel Lindau (VHL) tumour suppressor gene. Many studies have demonstrated that Vhl inactivation is required but not sufficient for ccRCC formation, requiring additional mutations such as co-inactivation of Polybromo-1 (Pbrm1), BRCA1-associated protein 1 (BAP1) or others.

To understand the first steps of ccRCC genesis, the Ratcliffe laboratory has developed a novel cell tagging model that couples conditional Vhl inactivation to the expression of a tdTomato reporter within a single allele. This allows us to accurately visualise, retrieve and analyse Vhl-null cells in different ways. We used this approach to investigate morphological (immunohistochemistry) and transcription (by sc-RNA seq) alterations of Vhl-null cells immediately after the Vhl loss and how these cells change/adapt over time. Our first publication condensed all the work done so far using this new oncogenic tagging system and we revealed markedly heterogeneous cellular effects including time-limited proliferation and elimination of specific cell types. (DOI: 10.1158/0008-5472.CAN-23-3248).

I am now working in multiple arms of the project that aims to investigate the mechanisms of transcription changes following Vhl by introducing new alleles such as HIF’s isoforms or pro-tumorigenic genes as mentioned above.


I was born in Piaui (Brazil). I studied Biology at the Federal University of Piaui and moved to the University of Sao Paulo to perform my master's and PhD in cancer cachexia research. During my PhD, I was focused on understanding the molecular mechanisms in tumours that could induce patients to lose weight involuntarily, which is a syndrome called cachexia. You can think about Steve Jobs as a known person who developed cachexia associated with pancreatic cancer and lost more than 30kg in a few months. During my PhD, we also developed a translational approach to treat cachectic patients with exercise, in which the anti-inflammatory effects of exercise have been demonstrated to be potentially important in chronic diseases. So, this led me to be very interested in how cells respond to oxygen-hypoxia under different conditions, such as stress, exercise, or tumour context.

I am a former President of the Oxford University Brazilian Society (OUBS) working to attract and support new Brazilian students at the University, to publicise research developed by Brazilians at Oxford and to foster cooperation and engagement between research groups from the UK and Brazil. I use Instagram social media to help Brazilian students get funding and scholarships to study abroad by mentoring them with the application (CV, cover letter, etc), and finding good opportunities and career pathways. As a result of this, I am proud to say that I had my first Brazilian student who achieved a PhD scholarship in Oxford and a master’s student at the University of Reading. I was also part of the Ludwig Oxford retreat committee in 2023-2024.