Dr. Desai earned her undergraduate and doctoral degrees in biomedical sciences at the University of Toronto in Toronto, Canada. Her doctoral dissertation focused on investigating the functional analysis of α-catenin in cadherin-mediated cell adhesion during Drosophila development.
Prior to joining Drexel, Dr. Desai was a senior research fellow at Joslin Diabetes Center and postdoctoral fellow at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center at Harvard Medical School, where she focused on investigating the mechanisms underlying initiation and progression of precursor lesions in pancreatic cancer.
Pancreatic cancer is one of the deadliest diseases in United States, with a 5-year survival of 12% and is considered to be one of the most aggressive types of cancer. Pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC) develops predominantly from two major types of asymptomatic precancerous lesions - microscopic pancreatic intraepithelial neoplasia (PanINs) and macroscopic mucin-producing cystic neoplasms, namely, intraductal papillary mucinous neoplasms (IPMN). At Drexel, Dr. Desai’s lab uses human stem cell derived organoid models to understand pancreatic cancer development. Some specific questions that interest us include:
- How does oncogenic GNAS (a G-protein that is mutated exclusively in IPMN lesions) differentially regulate cell proliferation in pancreatic ducts and acini?
- How does cell of origin dictate oncogene activity in different cell types of the exocrine pancreas?
- How do we model development and progression of IPMNs in vivo?
- How do ducts and acini communicate with their neighbors in normal and diseased conditions?