I got involved in cancer research after my grandfather was diagnosed with cancer. And I remember the feeling that I had when I learned that there were no treatment options. It just devastated me and it felt so unfair that I knew that science was going to be the only thing that would be able to help people like my grandfather.
And so that was what drove me to cancer research with this idea that we have to develop therapies that provide options to people that have none.
For centuries, doctors and scientists have been trying to defeat cancer. And in spite of intensive effort, cancer has remained one of the most difficult diseases to treat. One of the few things in common across the hundreds of different types of cancer is the fact that regardless of what tissue it started in or which specific genes are altered in it, all cancers start to grow in divide more rapidly than the normal cells around them.
And in order to divide and grow so much faster, they have different dietary needs. They have different metabolic needs. They have to take up more sugars, more glucose, more amino acids and more lipids from our diet or from the neighboring cells. And so scientists now understand that one way or another, tumor cells will rewired the biochemical pathways that make up their metabolism.
My lab is trying to understand how tumors can metabolically hijack the immune cells in the environment, for instance, by consuming extra nutrients that the immune cells in the T cells might use, but also by providing ones that they don't need. And so we're trying to figure out how we can reprogram or rewire or those immune cells, those T cells to function better in that environment.
That's why here at the Salt Cancer Center, we have a collaborative team of experts with different strengths that are attacking cancer from different angles. We are targeting cancer metabolism as a way to attack, all cancers including the hardest to treat cancers.