As a young boy growing up in a small town in India, Rakesh Jain’s prospects of shaking hands with the President of the United States were unimaginably low. But Rakesh Jain always set his sights high. After earning a place at a highly competitive engineering school in India, the Indian Institute of Technology in Kanpur, he decided to apply for graduate studies in the United States.
As a doctoral candidate in Chemical Engineering at the University of Delaware, he had the good fortune of working with mentors to tackle research problems that would transform his career. Collaboration with a distinguished cancer biologist at the National Cancer Institute made him realize the importance of introducing engineering principles to cancer research.
Over the next 40 years, Dr. Jain went on to create a new field at the interface of engineering and oncology. He has transformed our understanding of cancer biology and treatment by championing the notion that tumors are “complex tissues” and not a simple collection of cancer cells. To resolve this complexity, he developed an impressive array of innovative technologies as well as sophisticated animal and mathematical models. This approach allowed him to uncover the inner workings of tumors and to identify barriers to drug delivery and efficacy posed by the tumor’s abnormal microenvironment. With this new knowledge, he made groundbreaking discoveries about how to reengineer a tumor’s microenvironment to improve cancer treatment. His discoveries continue to guide the development and novel use of drugs to improve cancer treatment. And he continues to bring these ideas and discoveries out of the laboratory to cancer patients worldwide.