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Rishil Kathawala '14 Ph.D.

Cancer Research a Focus for Pharmacy Student 

Since traveling from India to study at St. John's University's College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences, Rishil Kathawala '14 Ph.D. has experienced an education beyond academics. "The weather is the biggest thing I’ve had to get used to,” he joked. “I'd never seen snow before."

The academic, of course, is what drew him to the University. After earning an undergraduate degree in pharmacy in India, Kathawala decided to pursue doctoral studies at St. John’s. He has completed four years of graduate study in pharmaceutical sciences, specializing in pharmacology. His research focuses on discovering compounds that surmount multidrug resistance (MDR) in certain types of cancers.

At SJU, Kathawala took part in pioneering research involving the discovery of compounds that can overcome MDR through the overexpression (abundance) of ATP binding cassette (ABC) transporters. ABC transporters are members of a protein superfamily that is one of the largest and oldest families with representatives in all extant phyla from prokaryotes to humans. These transporters utilize the energy of ATP binding and hydrolysis to transport various substrates across cellular membranes. His studies have advanced the understanding of the role of ABC transporter function and inhibition in cancer (pubmed). The work, he added, also played a pivotal role in his development as a scientist, inspiring him to pursue a career in cancer research.

When not conducting research, Kathawala also serves as a graduate assistant in the College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences. Charles R. Ashby, Jr., Ph.D., professor in the College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences and Kathawala’s mentor, observed, "He wants to be a scientist, and understands the work involved to reach this goal."

A member of the American Association for Cancer Research, the American Society for Cell Biology, and the New York Academy of Sciences, Kathawala is also a recipient of a research assistantship from the National Institutes of Health. "I’ve come so far,” he said, “and I know the journey will continue."