Vaishali Sanchorawala: Her Pioneering Research Into the Rare Disease Amyloidosis Defines the Field

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BOSTON- Dr. Vaishali Sanchorawala, MD is a Professor of Medicine and Director of the Amyloidosis Center of the Boston University School of Medicine and Boston Medical Center, whose pioneering research into the rare disease Amyloidosis has defined the field.

Amyloidosis is defined as a rare disease that occurs when an abnormal protein, called amyloid fibrils, builds up in human organs and interferes with their normal function, which frequently lead to organ dysfunction, organ failure, and death.

Dr. Sanchorawala is recognized as one of the leading international experts and a key opinion leader in amyloidosis. With numerous publications and meeting presentations, she has been a pioneer in the field of novel treatment in amyloidosis. Her work in the treatment of amyloidosis has been published in many peer-reviewed journals, which has resulted in the evolution of the standard of care for these patients.

On March 6, Dr. Sanchorawala will be honored as one of the 20 Outstanding Women of 2021 during the 18th Annual Woman of the Year Awards ceremony— to be held virtually this year. To buy a ticket, please click here.

Dr. Sanchorawala is currently heading several clinical trials nationally in the treatment of this disease. Her breadth of roles include serving on the executive steering committee of the Amyloidosis Research Consortium, the board of the International Society of Amyloidosis as secretary, and as an associate editor of Amyloid, Journal of Protein Folding Disorders. She has helped to create and cultivate the next generation of physician-scientists in the area of clinical research as well as other areas of amyloidosis. She have also participated in meetings with the FDA for enhancing the amyloidosis drug development pathway, guidance for more efficient and successful programs. Finally, she is on the advisory board of multiple leading pharmaceutical companies working towards drug therapies for amyloidosis.

Q/A with Dr. Sanchorawala:

INDIA New England News: Please tell our readers about your work and what you enjoy most about it?

Vaishali Sanchorawala: Amyloidosis is a protein misfolding disease, in which normally helpful proteins no longer serve their purposes. Different types of soluble proteins, which are normally present in the body, misfold and unfold, forming amyloid fibrils. These fibrils are deposited in various vital organs and frequently lead to organ dysfunction, organ failure, and death. Currently, there are 36 different precursor proteins identified as a cause of this disease. The limited knowledge surrounding amyloidosis stems from its classification as a rare disease, which is a condition that affects fewer than 200,000 people. Since this definition was created in 1983, rare diseases became known as orphan diseases, as pharmaceutical companies were not interested in adopting them for drug development.

Despite challenges and sadness with deaths while dealing with this disease, there is a sense of hope, optimism and at times, real joy as one walks through the clinic in Moakley-3 or the research lab in Conte-5. There are so many more spontaneous and genuine smiles from our patients and caregivers and every so often you hear a yelp of joy as a patient gets into remission and is so thrilled to imagine a better future. Leaving a lasting impact on the life of a person with this rare disease is what I strive to achieve.

INE: If you are engaged with any charity or non-profit, please tell us why this group and what do you do for them?

VS: Outside of my role of direct research and clinical care, I have an interest in working in charity organizations. I help cook meals for 300 underserved individuals at a meal center in Massachusetts (1-2 times a month) and volunteer regularly at the “Cradles to Crayons” non-profit organization.

INE: What are your hobbies and interests?

VS: I am an unapologetic workaholic. I am constantly pushing the pedal to the metal, whether at work or at conferences. Hence I have limited hobbies; however, cooking and traveling are top on the list. I also love gardening during the summer. And most recently my undiscovered hobby is to read my daughter’s college application essays. Long meditative walks with friends of “khichadi” group and sometimes joined by our spouses of “kadhi” group have become my longing interest during the pandemic.

INE: Your favorite books?

VS: Chasing My Cure: A Doctor’s Race to Turn Hope Into Action; A Memoir – By David Fajgenbaum (a medical thriller that grapples with penultimate stakes—real love, bedrock faith, and hope. Fast-paced and achingly transparent, deeply thoughtful memoir)

INE: Your favorite quotes?

VS: The only time “success” appears before “work,” is in the dictionary.

INE: Who inspires you the most?

VS: My mom is not just my superhero, best friend, role model, and rock, but she is also my inspiration. She has shown me consistent resilience and strength. I have seen her go through immense hardships, especially after losing my father when she was only 46 years old. Her strength through life has been remarkable. She is a fighter who never gives up, no matter how hard it gets. If I can ever be half the mother she is, my children will be fortunate.

INE: Your core value you try to live by?

VS: Being a successful leader is more than just having good administrative skills. One also needs empathy and compassion in order to build healthy relationships within an organization. Authenticity is one of one of the most valued leadership traits that I would try to live by.

“The mind is not a vessel to be filled, but a fire to be kindled.”

To me, this metaphor captures the pragmatics of mentorship, which is another core value of my mission. Mentors were critical to my career success. Mine shared their excitement about amyloidosis, but more importantly, encouraged and believed in me, even when the path ahead was muddled or difficult to navigate. I take great pride in mentoring the next generation of scientists and physician investigators.

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