Dr. Anand Krishnan, University of Saskatchewan
Can you describe your area of research and how it is helping address a health-related issue in Saskatchewan?
My research explores the way nerves contribute to promoting solid tumors. Nerves are part of the tumor microenvironment, and they offer several growth factors to support the growth and distant spread of cancer cells. They also activate the other cells in the tumor microenvironment to create a favorable growth environment for tumors and better equip them to escape the body’s immune system. An understanding of the ways the nerves support tumors would offer therapeutic opportunities to tackle treatment-resistant cancers. My focus is on prostate and breast cancers, which are the leading cancers diagnosed in Saskatchewan men and women.
What are the most rewarding aspects of your work?
Nerve dependent tumor growth is an emerging area of research that is gaining much attention recently because it promises to offer new therapies for treatment-resistant cancers. So, I’m excited! Neuroscience and cancer biology hug each other in this research which brings me a lot of interaction with expert neuroscientists, cancer biologists, and great young minds. Another takeaway from this research would be to know how tumors invite nerves to their side, and this knowledge provides additional insights for developing nerve regeneration therapies. The best of two worlds indeed!
What is the most challenging aspect of your work?
As mentioned above, it is a relatively new area of research. Because of this reason, many key aspects are yet to be unfolded for understanding the specifics, such as what are the nerve-born specific molecular targets, for therapeutic development and to initiate translation (bench to bedside) right away. At the same time, considering the complexity of the tumor microenvironment, portraying the nerve-specific events in tumors is actually a challenging task. Well, we use a laser capture microdissection approach to precisely study nerve innervated tumor areas and tackle this problem.
How did you first become interested in this area of research? What inspires you to do the work that you do?
I did my PhD work in cancer research studying the tumor regulatory network. I then moved on to neuroscience research for my postdoctoral work, where I studied how a tumor regulatory network within the nerves controls nerve regeneration and repair. I learned at that point that an efficient growth regulatory network is always active in nerves, which sparked my interest in exploring how nerves could control the growth of other tissues that they innervate, especially tumors.
Where is your research headed in the next five years?
The overarching goal of my research is to develop new therapies for treatment-resistant cancers. My lab presently performs protein profiling (proteomics) and gene profiling (RNA-Sequencing) to identify the critical molecules cooked by the nerves in the tumor microenvironment. These profiling studies are expected to reveal nerve-born molecular targets for developing new cancer therapies. I am also initiating collaborations with clinicians for the future translation of this research. In addition, as mentioned above, I plan to exploit the tumor-born molecules, which promote nerve growth in tumors, for developing nerve regeneration therapies.
For more info, please visit krishnanlab.online
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