Vanderbilt University, Nashville, TN, USA
Tata Translational Cancer Research Centre (TTCRC), Tata Medical Center, Kolkata /Test
My scientific training was initiated with a summer research fellowship from Jawaharlal Nehru Centre for Advanced Scientific Research and Rajiv Gandhi Foundation, India. Borderline obsession with the seminal paper on the “The Hallmarks of Cancer” by Hanahan and Weinberg motivated me to join the lab of Dr. R. Mulherkar, Head, Genetic Engineering, ACTREC, for this fellowship. Her immense patience and passion to teach youngsters about the mysteries of cell biology left an indelible mark on me. This dreamy-eyed and highly educational stint at ACTREC encouraged me to further explore the molecular basis of how normal cells transform into neoplastic cells leading to my eventual enrolment in a pre-doctoral program, where I would be able to establish a functional project of my own. Leaving the fish curries behind, I traveled to the USA and trained under the tutelage of a surgeon-scientist, Dr. Dai H. Chung. This was my first experience in working with pediatric tumours and has held my interest since then.
The doctoral project provided an opportunity to address the rising concern in treating children with a solid cancer called neuroblastoma (NB), namely – 1) reduce dosage of chemotherapeutic drugs commonly used to treat NB patients, allowing potential enhancement of their quality of life (QoL), and, 2) understand the pathobiology of aggressive, metastatic NBs and plausible strategies to prevent their recurrence. Working in a multi-cultural and multi-lingual laboratory, I began to appreciate why and how scientific information should be communicated to people of non-scientific background. And that began my journey as a volunteer with Hand-On-Nashville (HON) where I joined the Nashville Chapter of the American Cancer Society (ACS), which actively supports cancer patients and their families through the often-difficult journey of cancer therapy. Here I witnessed the devastating effects of cancer therapy, especially that of chemotherapeutics. Keeping the toxic effects of chemotherapy in mind, I then joined the Stem Cell and Cancer Institute, Canada, as a postdoctoral fellow, to explore the pathobiology of chemotherapy-induced peripheral neuropathy (CIPN), a debilitating condition in cancer patients. As enriching as the experience was, a persistent desire to delve deeper into pediatric tumours and contribute to the ongoing translational work in this field back in India acted as an impetuous for me to return home. On my return, the visions and goals of Prof Vaskar Saha, the premier Margdarshi Fellow and a clinician-scientist specializing in the field of childhood acute lymphoblastic leukaemia (ALL), proved to be instrumental in my decision to join Tata Translational Cancer Research Centre, the research division of Tata Medical Center, Kolkata. Here, I am a part of the paediatric haemato-oncology group with relapsed ALL as my primary focus.
As an Early Career Fellow, I aim to understand the mechanism by which relapses occur in children with ALL and how the tumour microenvironment influences this process.