Posted: July 22, 2016
To celebrate Sarcoma Awareness Month, we asked Young Investigator recipient, Dr. Ranjit Bindra, about his work identifying novel targeted drugs for a sub-type of rhabdomyosarcoma, called alveolar rhabdomyosarcoma (ARMS).
Q. What kind of research are you doing involving sarcoma?
A. We are trying to identify small molecules, either given as single agents or in combination with other drugs, which specifically kill tumor cells harboring translocations associated with rhabdomyosarcoma and Ewing sarcoma. We have developed a number of unique cell line models in which the corresponding tumorigenic translocations can be transiently expressed, and then cell viability and cell cycle phases can be monitored over defined periods of time. We use these models to study novel drug combinations for the treatment of these sarcomas.
Q. Why are you interested in finding a cure for sarcoma?
A. I met several children with metastatic rhabdomyosarcoma during my radiation oncology residency at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, and I was frustrated that we could offer nothing more than palliative treatments for them. Given that these tumors have defined translocations leading to myriad gene expression changes, there must be targets that can be exploited for these diseases.
A photo from one of our recent lab outings – as you will see, we are a relatively young group of graduate and medical students, and we hope many of them will become pediatric cancer lab heads someday!
Q. What is your proudest accomplishment so far in regards to your research?
A. Our group’s biggest achievement was the direct translation of a drug identified in a small molecule screen we performed, into adult patients in a Phase I brain tumor trial at Yale. This trial is ongoing and I am the PI. We hope to apply this rapid, bench-to-bedside approach to pediatric cancers soon. It is an exciting experience to prescribe a patient a therapy that you developed in your own laboratory.
Q. What advice would you give to a child with cancer?
A. Be as strong as you can, and know that many around you are here to help you and guide you through this difficult time.
Q. What advice would you give to parents of children dealing with sarcoma?
We are tirelessly working towards better treatments for sarcoma, and it is only a matter of time before major advances will be seen. We depend heavily on the support of foundations like CureSearch, and thank those who support this research.
CureSearch supports the work of Dr. Bindra and other Young Investigators so they can continue to deliver the next generation of cancer treatment. To learn more about their work, click here.