Shahenda Naggar, profile of a 57357 passionate and perseverant researcher

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Shahenda Naggar, 57357 basic research Head is just back from Boston where she attended an American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) workshop entitled “Translational research for basic Scientists” and met with some of the Dana Farber Cancer Institute’s top researchers.  Thanks to Egypt cancer Network 57357’s sponsorship, Shahinda was able to familiarize herself with  a couple of research techniques at Dana Farber and to be in touch with the latest trends in cancer Research. . I had the chance to chat with Naggar upon her return from the U.S.

What was important about attending the ACCR workshop?

The ACCR is the reliable source of information about advances in the fight against cancer. It is important for researchers to be familiar with the recent trends in the field and the focus and direction that cancer research is taking at the present time. At ACCR, I was exposed to several success stories of researchers who concentrated their efforts at finding new drugs which are now treating different diseases including certain types of cancer. I had the chance also to attend the routine follow-up on a brain tumor patient by his physician. The aim of the workshop was to invite and encourage researchers to move away of their enclosed labs, their genes and proteins and look at the big picture: how would my research benefit the cancer patient?

The workshop you attended is entitled translational research for basic scientists, what is a basic Scientist and what is translational research?

A basic research Scientist looks into the pure science that is meant to increase our scientific knowledge base. His research is intended to increase our understanding of certain phenomena or behavior. He will for example look into cellular behavior in normal and cancer cells. Translational research is on the other hand aiming at translating the findings in basic research more quickly and efficiently into medical practice.

The title of the workshop you were interested to attend reveals a yearning or an urge on your part not just to look at mechanisms but to  also be  of help to cancer patients, Is it because you are working at the Children’s cancer Hospital Egypt 57357 in close contact with cancer patients versus being in a more purely academic setting?

Definitely working at 57357 in close contact with cancer patients heightens the urge to be of help to those patients. There are other advantages also  to working at 57357 mainly that one is operating in an environment which upholds research  as a necessity to improve patients outcomes and which has demonstrated on an international level its capabilities and competitiveness  in terms of facilities, staff and sanitation level at the service of researchers . The children’s cancer Hospital Egypt is one the largest pediatric oncology center in the world in terms of capacity and the number of cancer cases it is treating for any given kind of cancer, making it an attractive place for research collaborations around the world.

How did you join 57357?

I did my PHD in biochemistry and molecular biology and post doctorate work at Louisville University  in the U.S., but for family reasons , had to go back and live in Egypt in 2008. Apprehending not to find a suitable workplace where I could pursue my interest in molecular biology and cancer research, I came across an ad during Ramadan about hospital 57357 and consulted their website which revealed an impressive facility. Two weeks later I met with Dr. Sherif Abou El Nagga, VP of the Hospital for research and academic affairs, who asked me to join the research team.

What is the latest trend in basic research now? And what was  the purpose of your visit to Dana Farber Cancer Institute?

The latest trend in research is omics. In the past we looked at one single gene or a few number of genes, or one single protein……Now, they look at screening the genome which is the entirety of an organism’s hereditary information. They also look at the complete set of proteins that can be expressed by the genetic material of an organism which is called complete proteome. I was fortunate to be accepted as a candidate for the ACCR workshop but would not have been a participant without the sponsorship of my travel and stay for an extra week by Egypt Cancer Network 57357 to meet with the Dana Farber Cancer Institute researchers. There, I was able to familiarize myself with two research techniques related to neurospheres generated from fresh tissues and brain slice cultures. I also discussed with them potential research projects and collaboration venues.

Can you tell me more about Egypt Cancer Network 57357?

Egypt cancer Network is a U.S. based tax-deductible non-profit (501C3). Its mission is to provide resources for Egyptian hospitals and non-profit organizations focused on cancer in the areas of patient care, scientific advancement and education

What are the research projects you are working on now?

They all deal with brain tumors which is my primary interest. I was able to obtain one grant for my work in neuroblastoma from the Sciences and Technology Development Fund and two other grants for my work on Glioblastoma multiforme from the Academy of Sciences for the Developing World and from L’Oreal- UNESCO in Sciences for Women fellowship Award.

Brain tumors are very hard to cure and are very often recurrent, specially in adults. Do you think we could have a breakthrough?

This is precisely how this workshop was helpful, in that it opened our eyes to the great potential of a breakthrough if only a  basic scientist and a manufacturer could  concentrate their efforts and investment  in new drugs.  What if a new drug was capable of penetrating the blood brain barrier? This is what research is all about: our hope and roadmap for constantly improving the human condition.