Instru Foundation grant ensured the continuity of the research work on deadly cancers

Last year Pranshu Sahgal, Ph.D., received a post doc grant from the Instru Foundation for his research “Developing new therapies and markers for gastric and esophageal adenocarcinomas (GEAs)”. We asked him, how he and his research are now doing in Boston. 

Sahgal´s current research is the intersection of basic research and translational clinical research in gastric, esophageal and colorectal cancer. Sahgal is trying to understand the fundamental changes in the human genome that result in tumor formation and tumor evolution. He is interested in defining why most of these tumors are resistant to the drug treatment and how we can overcome this drug resistance problem by using personalized combination therapy with combining the preexisting drugs and discovering the new drugs in the process. 

“The final goal of my research is to find the most promising drug combinations against these deadly cancers and translate them into new clinical trials in patients” Sahgal says.

Instru Foundation grant gave peace of mind regarding financial issues

The 50 000€ grant that Sahgal received from the Foundation meant a lot to him. A translational research like his takes great deal of time, at least three years or more. With the grant he can continue his research work without financial stress. But it´s not all about the research, also practical things matter. Housing in Boston is at least four times more expensive than in Finland, so with the grant it is possible to invest all the energy and attention to the research. In lack of this grant it would have impacted his performance and efficiency in the lab – and not in a positive way.

Full-fledged collaboration between research labs, hospitals and pharma industries

As a main difference between doing research work in Finland and USA Sahgal sees the strong full-fledged collaboration between research labs, hospitals and pharma industries in USA, particularly Boston. This collaboration slightly lacks in Finland:

“Whatever we discover in the lab here, it is easier to proceed with the clinical trials on patients with the help of pharma companies and hospitals.”

After the post doc period abroad Sahgal plans to come back to Finland and contribute to the Finnish cancer research, especially when it comes to taking forward the discoveries made in the lab to real clinical settings for the direct benefit of cancer patients with the new and latest therapies.

There are no silly questions – develop a habit of asking

Sahgal advices fellow researchers to apply for grants early enough during the Ph.D. If possible, it pays off to visit the lab and the institute personally like he did and discuss openly with people around, before committing to joining the new lab.

“Talk with the tentative supervisor and group members about the research and the practical arrangements and atmosphere in the lab. Some cities in USA are costly to live like Boston, New York and San Francisco, so keep that in mind. In general, I think, as a scientist and post doc researcher, develop a habit of asking a lot of questions, no matter how silly they are. Observe your research and results with an open mind without a bias. Have patience and persistence. And most importantly, be prepared to fail and learn from mistakes because when it comes to translational research, not all the drugs which we see working in the lab would be successful on the patients.”

Instrumentariumin tiedesäätiö 30.9.2020