Today we’re highlighting Dr. Vinod Balachandran, one of the William Raveis Charitable Fund Fellowship Recipients. With the money raised from the Raveis Ride + Walk in September 2017, Dr. Balachandran will be able to continue his research concerning pancreatic cancer. Read more below.
Despite our best current treatments, 95% of patients with pancreatic cancer, including those at the earliest stages, die within five years of diagnosis. By 2020, pancreatic cancer will become the second leading cause of cancer-related death in the U.S. New therapies are urgently needed. T-cells are highly specialized cells of the immune system designed to protect the human body from infections and cancer. Very few T-cells recognize pancreatic cancer; however, recent work showed that these T-cells play a very important role in controlling the spread of pancreatic cancer. Patients whose tumors have higher proportions of T cells survived over 3-times longer than patients who did not.
Dr. Balachandran’s group has unique access to these extremely rare patients that survived, on average, 6 years with pancreatic cancer and whose tumors have 12-times as many activated T cells as patients who have more typical poor outcomes. He has discovered that their exceptional survival is linked to T cells recognizing novel cancer proteins that make these cancers resemble infections. His research will focus on understanding these unique cancer proteins in long-term survivors, with the goal of developing novel immunotherapies to treat all patients with pancreatic cancer.
Dr. Balachandran earned his undergraduate degree in physics from Cornell University, and his MD from SUNY Stony Brook. When he is not in the lab, he enjoys classical violin and percussion, endurance running and triathlons. He speaks Mandarin Chinese, Tamil, Malayalam, and Hindi.