Debangshu Samanta

One research interest of the Semenza lab is to unravel how the HIF-1 gene plays an important role in critical aspects of cancer biology, including tumor angiogenesis, regulation of glucose and energy metabolism, invasion, metastasis and resistance to chemotherapy.

Triple-negative breast cancers (TNBCs) are defined by the lack of expression in genes, including estrogen receptor, progesterone receptor and human epidermal growth factor receptor 2. Chemotherapy is the primary established systemic treatment for TNBC, both in the early and advanced stages, with a durable response rate of less than 20 percent. Thus, it is critical to understand the properties of TNBC cells that survive chemotherapy in order to reduce patient mortality. Through my research, I identified how the hypoxia-inducible factors (HIFs) orchestrate both the intrinsic and acquired resistance in TNBC.

Questions & Answers

Why did you choose Johns Hopkins for your work?

Johns Hopkins is a world-renowned research institute, a trailblazer of biomedical research. I also consulted with the faculties at Vanderbilt. The consensus was the environment at Johns Hopkins was very supportive and collaborative. Finally, it gave me the privilege to work with a world-renowned scientist, Dr. Gregg Semenza.

What does receiving this award mean to you personally and professionally? Do you have any connection with the particular award you received?

I am very honored and humbled to receive this award. Personally, this award gives me the confidence to strive to solve challenging problems in cancer biology. Professionally, this award means that biomedical experts have recognized my research contributions.

What contributed to your project’s success (special skills, interests, opportunities, guidance, etc.)?

I have been incredibly fortunate to have Dr. Semenza as an adviser. He has given me the intellectual freedom to pursue the questions and ideas that I find most interesting but also provided me clear guidance when I needed it. The collaborative environment at Johns Hopkins also contributed to my project’s success. As a postdoc, I have collaborated with five different labs at Johns Hopkins. Finally, the unique privilege at Johns Hopkins to walk into neighboring labs and ask for reagents, permission to use their equipment or get advice is amazing and critical to getting things done on time.

What thoughts do you have about Young Investigators’ Day itself, as a celebration of the roles student and fellows play in research at Johns Hopkins?

The Young Investigators’ Day is an excellent celebration adopted by Johns Hopkins leadership to recognize the contribution made by the young scientists. The Young Investigators’ Day award has now become one of the major accomplishments I have made here.

What has been your best/most memorable experience while at Johns Hopkins?

My best experience while at Johns Hopkins was learning different things, which ranged from learning new biology, to establishing and managing collaborations, to mentoring junior scientists.

What are your plans over the next year or so? 

I plan to start my own lab. I will be applying next fall.

Tell us something interesting about yourself that makes you unique. Do you have any special hobbies, interests or life experiences?

From childhood through college, I was a passionate about soccer. I won many prizes in school and college. Playing soccer taught me the value of teamwork, which is very much applicable in modern research. Still, in my spare time, I enjoy watching and playing soccer.