Meet the Researcher: Arnav Mehta, M.D., Ph.D.

Let’s Win featured a great article on one of Sky Foundation’s funded researchers, Arnav Mehta, MD, PhD.  It discusses how Dr. Mehta was brought on board to help interpret and analyze that data for COVID-19.  

Although COVID-19 is not his area of expertise, analyzing data is.  “From my perspective, I wanted to help anywhere I could, and since I’m trained as a mathematician it was a way I could contribute and maybe help make a difference during that really awful time,” Mehta says.

The article then proceeds to dive into Dr. Mehta’s research and is main area of expertise. 

Mehta is no stranger to the rigors of medicine and research. Today, as a physician, he is bringing his clinical expertise to the treatment and care of patients with gastrointestinal (GI) cancers like gastroesophageal, colon, and pancreatic cancer. As a scientist, his research interests include immunology, cancer biology, single-cell genomics, and mathematics, applied for the discovery of new cancer therapies.

“When people ask me what I do, I always say that first and foremost I’m a doctor who has the privilege of taking care of cancer patients with disease in their gut or abdomen,” he explains. “As a scientist, I care about finding new therapies to treat these cancers. So I study human biology and do experiments on tissue samples derived from patient tumors.”

Medicine and science have embraced digitization to better understand the biology of a disease. And much more information is aggregated around different factors that make up a disease, including DNA, proteins, enzymes, cells, tissues, even ecosystems. It’s this proliferation of so-called “big data” that will yield a better understanding of the basic biology of many diseases. And that’s where Mehta’s training as a mathematician comes into play.

“There’s no getting around it that in our current era we now generate large data sets in the lab, and the question is what do we do with that data, how do we analyze it,” Mehta says. “Biology and mathematics are starting to converge. I’m a math guy, and I’m used to big data, large data sets. And I’m someone who wants to tackle and solve a problem. So my career path spans seeing patients, treating patients, and finding better ways to treat them using my expertise in other fields.”

Mehta completed his undergraduate studies at Duke University in mathematics and chemistry. He then completed his combined M.D. and Ph.D. degrees at the David Geffen School of Medicine at the University of California, Los Angeles, and the California Institute of Technology, respectively. He performed his Ph.D. work in the laboratory of Nobel laureate Dr. David Baltimore, during which time he discovered novel roles of microRNAs in hematopoietic stem cell function and in leukemia. Mehta subsequently completed his residency in internal medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital, followed by a combined hematology/oncology fellowship at MGH, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, and the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute (Boston).

As a fellow, he completed his postdoctoral research in the laboratories of Dr. Eric Lander and Dr. Nir Hacohen. During that time, he developed experimental and computational methods to study resistance mechanisms of pancreatic, gastroesophageal, and colorectal cancers using single-cell and spatial genomics technologies on patient samples and in vitro models. His work has been published in multiple journals, including Immunity, Cell Stem Cell, Nature Immunology, Nature Genetics, Nature Cancer, Cancer Discovery, Science Translational Medicine, and Cell Reports.

Mehta’s research interests also include studies of tumor cell plasticity and resistance mechanisms using cutting-edge single-cell genomics and lineage tracing technologies. He has received numerous awards, including the prestigious Doris Duke Charitable Foundation Physician Scientist Fellowship.


To read the article in full, visit Let’s Win’s website here.