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Siddharth Balachandran, PhD

Siddharth Balachandran, PhD
Dr. Balachandran is an Assistant Professor in the Immune Cell Development and Host Defense program and is a member of the The Keystone Program in Personalized Kidney Cancer Therapy

"I am most excited about the progress we are making at unraveling basic pathways, the scale at which we are figuring out how a normal cell works is unprecedented," says Dr. Siddharth Balachandran, PhD, an Assistant Professor in the Immune Cell Development and Host Defense program here at Fox Chase Cancer Center.

"Unless we know how a normal cell works, we cannot figure out how to target a tumor cell, without harming the normal cell next to it. I am also excited about the possibility of targeted therapies emerging in the next five to ten years."

Dr. Balachandran is a relatively young basic scientist here at Fox Chase. He received his Bachelor's degree at Angelo State University in Chemistry and went on to get his PhD at Emory University.

"Near the end of my undergraduate education I quickly became fascinated by viruses and viral pathogenesis, so the reason I chose Emory is because it is adjacent to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) in Atlanta. The CDC is one of the few places with Biosafety level 4 laboratories, labs with a negative pressure environment where one can work with hardcore viruses such as Ebola, H1N1, etc."

In his role as assistant professor, Siddharth is studying what happens within the first two to three minutes that one is infected by a virus. What do the sentinel proteins within a cell do to raise an alarm? How do they go around saying, "We've been infected, now save yourselves!" This happens through the secretion of these proteins called interferons, the main focus of his research.

Why a cancer center you ask? Well interferons are not only anti-viral, but also anti-tumor. Tumors are also slightly different than us, and we use the same mechanisms to detect them. Why Fox Chase? "The calmness of the place. Fox Chase seems relatively impervious to outside flux," says Siddharth. "It cares about your projects, what are you working on. Fox Chase has a collegial, village-like atmosphere, and is very efficient because of this."