19 December 2022 – New EMBO Global Investigator Shruti Bhatt, assistant professor at the National University of Singapore, is extremely thankful to the mentors who have supported her career and is keen to pay that back. “Thanks to the funding available via the EMBO Global Investigator Network, my students have the chance to train with collaborators abroad and to attend international conferences. This will really boost their careers” says Bhatt.
Originally from India, Bhatt went to the US for her masters and PhD in search of scientific challenges. There she worked on designing novel immunocytokine for the treatment of B-cell lymphoma. She says the experience made her realize the reality of cancer therapy, that no one drug will cure all patients. As time went on, she felt a growing urge to understand why some patients do not respond to therapy and what happens when patients relapse. Now with her own group, she studies the evolution of drug resistance in blood cancers, specifically acute myeloid leukaemia; currently, over 70% of patients relapse several months after induction of chemotherapy treatment.
“We don’t have any good models for why a subset of cancer cells manage to evade treatment,” she explains. “We want to characterize the genotype and phenotype of these so-called drug-tolerant persister cells to better understand why patients relapse, and to optimize combination therapy for long-term remission.” Her group also studies the tumour microenvironment to understand if subtle changes occurring between diagnosis and relapse help leukaemia cells evade therapy.