Coming from opposite ends of the globe – Mistretta from Buffalo, New York, and Palat, from Chennai, India – the two researchers experienced very similar situations when someone close to them was diagnosed with and treated for cancer: “Whether it’s you or someone you care about, it will change your world,” Brandon Mistretta says, thinking about his college roommate who had been diagnosed with cancer years before. “Having seen someone I care about go through cancer treatment, and the hardships he faced while doing it, I know how important it is to have better therapy options out there.”
That’s why both he and Palat joined the laboratory of Preethi Gunaratne, Ph.D., a researcher who worked directly on the National Cancer Institute’s Human Cancer Genome Atlas.
“Most cancer therapy approaches look at the tumor, not the microenvironment it grows in,” explains Palat. “By targeting the microenvironment, we have the opportunity to come up with therapies that can maybe even prevent cancer from occurring in the first place.”