20 U A B C O M P R E H E N S I V E C A N C E R C E N T E R
it have to do with cancer? There was some difficulty understanding Warburg s hypothesis, because it turned out that what he proposed was not true for all cancer cells. In fact, it didn t seem to apply to blood-related cancers such as leukemia or lymphoma.
In solid tumors, however, such as lung and breast cancer, mitochondria did show damage commensurate with Dr. Warburg s hypotheses. Even then, scientists were slow to accept the causal relationship between damaged mitochondria and cancer. We and others in the field have changed that, and now it s very fash- ionable, Dr. Singh says. If you do a search for the Warburg effect, it s everywhere. Cell metabolism, as it became part of the process, is everywhere now.
His interest my passion and hobby, he calls it has broadened to include not only cancer but all mitochondrial diseases, which he estimates affect one in every 2,000 children born in the U.S. And there s adult onset as well, he says. These diseases can occur at any age and in any organ. Since establishing Mitochondrion, Dr. Singh has helped establish organizations in countries across Asia and Europe to try to determine an epidemi- ology for the disease. Parallel organizations in the United States and India collaborate to gather enough patients with mitochondrial diseases to populate a clinical trial. But we re also finding that some of these children, if they live to adulthood, get cancer, he says. And that s the connection I keep coming back to.
Answering the Call Dr. Singh s most significant discovery of late was
the UAB Comprehensive Cancer Center. Two years ago, while a researcher and professor of oncology at Roswell Park Cancer Institute in Buffalo, New York, Dr. Singh got a call from center director Edward Partridge, M.D., inviting him to come to UAB to deliver a seminar and visit the place and see if there s anything I like, Dr. Singh says.
He liked a lot. Familiar with the comprehensive can- cer center model through his work at Johns Hopkins and
at Roswell Park, he was impressed by the strengths and the potential UAB s center had to offer. The resources here, the research opportunities, and the opportunity to build a program in this area were the main reasons, he says, with the strength of the center s cancer genetics and genomics research ready to support his work. Also, I wanted to run away from Buffalo to a warmer climate.
If the science had not been enough to keep him in Birmingham, he says, the area might have been enough. It s a beautiful area. You don t know until you get here, he says. These hills aren t written about on Birmingham s city Web site. It s just fantastic you could not have this kind of living in any other city.
Miles to Go When not at the office, Dr. Singh enjoys time
at home with his wife, Kylie, his son, Vijay and his daughter, Anita who no longer have to stamp enve- lopes and mail newsletters for him. Now I have an RSS feed so that everything to do with mitochondria feeds directly into the Web site, he says.
That leaves him more time for one of his favorite activities reading poetry, particularly the work of poets Rabindranath Tagore and Omar Khayyam. Although Dr. Singh has written a good deal of poetry himself, he now finds language to be a barrier a speaker of Bhojpuri in his native India, Dr. Singh also speaks Hindi, Sanskrit, Urdu and English. Now I m confused about which language I should write, he says. I ve sort of given it up in the past several years. But I ve substituted that with editing books. This is my complete circle a doctor struggling for 10 years to convince the world that mitochondria are present, working with Leslie Costello, one of the godfathers of the field he s in his 80s, his career is finishing, and I m still trying to make a point.
Dr. Singh s days are not all prosaic, however. He is always ready with his favorite poem Robert Frost s Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening. The woods are lovely, dark and deep, but I have promises to keep, and miles to go before I sleep, he quotes.
Dr. Singh s
calls it has
include not only
cancer but all
affect one in
children born in
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