Realizing Futures

Behind the Science: Q & A with Dr. Sampurna Chatterjee

Funding Lifesaving Research Q&A with Dr. Sampurna Chatterjee

We’d like you to meet Dr. Sampurna Chatterjee, Emerging Investigator Grant recipient from Massachusetts General Hospital. Dr. Chatterjee explores reducing side effects of Medulloblastoma, the most common brain tumor in children. Not much research has been done in developing safer drugs for children suffering from medulloblastoma to date. With the support from PCRF, Dr. Sampurna Chatterjee aims to minimize toxic doses of radiation by reducing its dosage. Then by combining low-dose radiation with specific targeted therapies, she aims to develop novel and potent treatments for this deadly disease.

She tells us more about her role in helping to ensure all children have a chance at a long and healthy future.

Why are you interested in finding a cure and/or better treatments for medulloblastoma? Nothing can prepare any parent for such news that his/her kid has cancer. We see worried faces at the Pediatric Cancer Center here at MGH all the time. Although surgical resection accompanied by chemotherapy and radiation give these little kids a new lease on life, survivors often suffer gravely from substantial cognitive and neurological dysfunction. This can include severe hearing loss, blindness, speech defect, growth hormone deficiency and delayed puberty; in short – severely compromised quality of life. Sometimes those tumors recur even more aggressively. This unmet need motivates me to find better cures for medulloblastoma that promotes durable response without therapy-associated side effects.

Share your thoughts on why you think it’s important to fund pediatric cancer research. Currently, the National Cancer Institute dedicates less than 4% of its budget to childhood cancer research. New safe drugs and protocol treatments for children are not developed at the rate they are for adults because they are not considered profitable. Research is very expensive and we need the funding to buy the reagents, instruments etc. Hence we need to rely on external funding to continue what we are doing.

What is your point of view on the climate of pediatric cancer research?
Pediatric cancer research has been an empty field for a while now. However, in the recent times, there has been a spike in interest. World leaders are coming up with reproducible models that recapitulate the human diseases very closely. Additionally, FDA has been moving to accelerate the approval process for drugs designed to be safe and effective for kids. All in all, the future of pediatric cancer research and the welfare of the kids looks very optimistic at this point.

What is your proudest accomplishment so far in regards to your research?
I have accidentally found this novel therapeutic target in pediatric cancers and using a non-toxic drug that is currently in clinical trial for adult cancers. If this can be successfully translatable, it will also hopefully be beneficial for the kids with medulloblastoma.

Can you tell us something about you not many people know?
I am currently taking lessons to fly an airplane. I have been fascinated with these powerful machines and hoping to fly one independently some day.

What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?
I do volunteering, work out at the gym, go for long drives and read books in my spare time.

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When you are young and healthy, it never occurs to you that in a single second your whole life could change. – Annette Funicello