Cancer Researcher 'Always Learning' Through Laboratory Studies
Balveen Kaur, PhD, a professor in the Department of Neurological Surgery at Ohio State, embraces her roles as both teacher and learner.
“The most exciting part of my job as an academic scientist is that I’m always a student; I’m always learning,” says Dr. Kaur, who co-directs the Office of Postdoctoral Research in the College of Medicine. She also is associate director for shared resources and a member of the Translational Therapeutics Program at the OSUCCC – James. “The more I read, the more questions I have and the less I know, and that is extremely rewarding because it is so exciting to be always alert to making new observations and finding new facts.”
Dr. Kaur’s lab team focuses on developing oncolytic (cancer-killing) viral therapies for brain and central nervous system cancers and has associated interests in boosting the immune system’s ability to fight cancer, strategies for inhibiting the formation of blood vessels that sustain tumors, and studying how the area surrounding a tumor (microenvironment) contributes to cancer development and progression.
She admits that she also is thrilled when her hypotheses are disproven through contradictory data generated by her students in subsequent laboratory experiments. “The surprise of getting results that are very different from what I anticipated is very exciting,” she says, explaining that she and her students can learn much from unexpected outcomes.
Dr. Kaur’s laboratory has produced an abundance of beneficial research, including two recent studies published in prestigious scientific journals. One of those studies found that combining a targeted drug with a particular cancer-killing virus might significantly improve the virus’s ability to destroy brain cancer cells. The other identified a molecule in cancer cells that shuts down the expression of genes as a promising target for new drugs designed to treat glioblastoma multiforme, the most frequent and lethal form of brain cancer.