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Meet Dr. Battacharyya- Doing something for the people who need you most

Posted By Connections Editor, Monday, September 9, 2013
Updated: Thursday, August 22, 2013

Dr. G. S. Bhattacharyya
CA-125, Sector 1,
Salt Lake, Kolkata - 700064

Dr. G. S.Bhattacharyya is a consultant at the Chittaranjan National Cancer Institute in Kolkata, India. He is also in charge of the Department of Medical Oncology of the Fortis Hospital, in Anandapur, Kolkata, as well as of the Department of Medical Oncology in the AMRI Hospital of Dhakuria, Kolkata. Dr. Bhattacharyya is a member of the European Society for Medical Oncology (ESMO), the Breast International Group (BIG), the IASLC Committee, and the incoming president of the Indian Society for Medical and Pediatric Oncology (ISMPO). He has been a member of ISEH for two years, and values ISEH’s excellent website, which helps him keep up to date on the latest advances in the field of hematology and stem cell research.

Dr. Bhattacharyya began his career in 1984 as an Assistant Clinical Research Officer at the Indian Council of Medical Research in the School of Tropical Medicine in Calcutta. He was also a Principal Scientific Officer involved in setting up the Sickle Cell Research Center at Burla Medical College. This led to a keen interest in Hemoglobinopathy and Hemato-oncology. Dr. Bhattacharyya had a few key mentors; Professor D J Weatherall, Professor Asim Basu, Professor N. N. Sen, and Professor F. M. Goldman all impacted his career path, as he became an expert in the fields of malignant hematology, breast cancer, lung cancer, and innovative drug development.

Dr. Bhattacharyya was kind enough to answer some questions for ISEH.

There are a lot of interesting aspects of this scientific field; what do you find the most exciting?

I am most excited by the field of cytokines and immune-oncology and controlling the side effects of targeted therapy.

What is the most exciting study or project happening at your lab/facility?

The most exciting areas being studied are the interaction between coagulation and angiogenesis; beta blockers, sympathomimetics and angiogenesis; and beta blockers and COX-2 inhibitors, using m-TOR inhibitors.

How are you helping to mentor new investigators at your lab/facility?

We are working to develop protocols, generate ideas, and provide monitoring.

Given your experience in the field, could you please elaborate on the changes that you saw in the field during the past 5 years?

Studies into the molecular basis of disease have been able to identify new variants of diseases in leukemia.

Targeted therapies have allowed for the use of drugs for specific diseases and specific sub-types like Rituximab in Lymphoma; JAK inhibitors in Myelofibrosis; and the scenario of myeloma changing with the use of Elotuzumab.

There have been major advances in the control of side effects, e.g. in the control of neutropenia. Better antibiotics have been developed, which are able to control infections, which were once the major killer in hematology.

Another great advance is in the use of extracellular matrix drugs that modulate the matrix to prevent seedlings of cancer cells.

It’s clear that the field is going to continue to evolve at an amazing pace. How do you see it changing over the next five years?

Medicine will become based on the four P’s: predictive, participatory, preventive, personalized. This will lead to an increase in survival with less toxicity, the treatment of most diseases as chronic diseases, and effective and economical medicine.

What do you consider the biggest challenge currently facing the hematology and stem cells scientific field and how can it be managed?

Cost, availability and accessibility, and bio-repositories.

Does your lab have any big studies or projects planned in the near future?

Yes, we are planning to study the interaction between COX-2 inhibitors and non-selective beta-blockers in multiple myeloma, as well as mTOR inhibitors in acute leukemia.

Why did you decide to pursue your research career in your native country?

I chose to come back to India for a few reasons. One reason is the different ethnic population. Indians and Asians are different from Caucasians genetically, so pharmaco-genomics varies widely and hence therapeutically is not relevant to this sub-group of population.

Another reason is the different socio-economical involvement. As the socio-economic situation in developing countries is not the same as in developed countries, the affordability of drugs and treatment becomes an issue. So cost-effective and comparative efficacy research becomes important. Additionally, there is a need in India to modify current and future technologies to suit different ethnic groups as well as be available to people in a variety of socio-economic situations.

What are the challenges and the rewards of working as a researcher in India?

Challenges include access to funds; the regulatory atmosphere; and a lack of awareness of clinical research among the media, politicians, professional, patients and public.

The biggest reward is having done something for the people who need you most.

How would you describe the funding climate in your country for biomedical research in general and for your specific type of research in particular?

Funds are limited and the geographical and socio-economical diversity of India are handicaps to multi-centric research.

What advice do you have for new investigators that are considering a return to your country to conduct research in general and in your field of expertise?

Be focused. Choose relevant problems. Keep in mind comparative efficacy research (CER). Believe in the principals of pharmaco-economics.

What advice do you have (if any) for your government to recruit high level researchers?

Develop 3 tier research systems at the Primary, Secondary, and Tertiary levels.

Choose researchers appropriate for the positions available, and gear up the administration and think tanks needed to develop and evaluate talent.

If you could meet one person (dead or alive) who would it be and why?

I would meet Dr. M. Wintrobe, because he was a great teacher, great researcher, a man with integrity and insight, and he was almost the father of Hematology.

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