Cancer on the brain: breaking down the blood-brain barrier with Dr Sadhana Jackson

We are very pleased and super excited to welcome Dr. Sadhana Jackson (@DrSadhanaJ) here at Real Scientists this week! 

Dr. Jackson is a pediatric neuro-oncologist for the National Cancer Institute at NIH. She is particularly interested in understanding the blood-brain barrier, in order to better treat brain tumors. As usual, we asked Sadhana to tell us about her journey with science so far: 9006[1]

 

I really had a love for science early but after attending a “Having Fun with DNA” girls science camp in 7th grade I truly fell in love with conducting experiments. From then on, I decided I wanted to be a scientist. So every summer I signed up to go to molecular biology camp in Iowa, math camp in DC, aeronautical science in Maryland and many others. After my family members starting being diagnosed with varied cancers, and discovered I was more of a people person, that’s when I decided to become a physician-scientist.

Why did you decide to work on cancer?

Everyone around me seems to be being diagnosed with cancer -an aunt with stomach cancer, a father with prostate cancer, and a childhood friend with leukemia. With my passion for science, I developed an invested interest specifically on oncology research.
I became most interested in the field of brain tumors after seeing the multi-disciplinary care that’s needed of these patients. I became energized by the great minds of surgeons, pathologists, oncologist, radiation oncologists, child life therapists, and others coming together to optimally treat children with brain tumors.

What area of research particularly interests you, and why is it important?

One of the major obstacles to effectively treating central nervous system (CNS) disease is the integrity of the blood-brain barrier (BBB). The BBB prevents delivery of systemic drugs to the brain and tumor tissue. While previous studies have focused on circumventing the BBB using direct tumor delivery, and mechanically opening the BBB, very few agents have been evaluated for effectiveness of BBB disruption in an effort to increase drug entry to the brain.

My research area focuses on understanding the blood-brain barrier and blood-tumor barrier in malignant gliomas. My laboratory studies pertain to comprehensive evaluation of BBB biology by analysis of the genomics, proteomics and pharmacokinetics. These in vitro and preclinical studies assess BBB characteristics in both normal and diseased brain. These findings will then be translated to clinical trials to evaluate the utility of varied pharmacologic agents to transiently open the BBB to improve chemotherapeutic delivery.

The blood-brain barrier prevents good therapy from entering the brain for treatment of cancers, infection, neurologic disorders, etc. Our research is focused on improving delivery of varied agents by finding intelligent ways to transiently increase BBB permeability to improve disease outcomes.

What do you like to do for fun?

I love playing board games, hanging out with my friends and family and podcasting with my husband (it’s our weekly relationship laugh therapy).

Please welcome Sadhana to Real Scientists!

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