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Massey biostatistician develops state-of-the-art statistical models to predict oral cancers and periodontal diseases

Dipankar Bandyopadhyay, Ph.D.

VCU Massey Cancer Center researcher Dipankar Bandyopadhyay, Ph.D., constructs statistical models to better understand the causes and patterns of oral cancers and periodontal diseases that may potentially lead to the development of novel therapies to more effectively treat these diseases. He joined Massey as a member of the Cancer Prevention and Control (CPC) research program in 2016 and is also the director of Massey’s Biostatistics Shared Resource Core and a professor in biostatistics at the VCU School of Medicine.

Bandyopadhyay’s research focuses on efficient risk evaluation of environmental, socio-demographic and behavioral factors in the development of oral, head and neck cancers and periodontal diseases (which affect gums and other oral tissue) through sophisticated but computationally scalable statistical models. Through his studies, he hopes to guide the framework for developing more effective clinical trials for oral, head and neck cancers.

He also works to improve upon demographic disparities in clinical trial participation for Massey’s prospective patient population.

“There is a huge potential to engage Richmond’s diverse population in cancer research that aligns with national efforts to reduce the unequal burden of cancer in our society,” he said.

In addition, Bandyopadhyay is joining the growing field of precision dentistry. Currently, he holds a $1.15 M R01 grant from the National Institutes of Health/National Institutes of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR) to build statistical models that challenge the six-month recommendation for dental visits and individually predict a more appropriate appointment schedule for a given patient.

“This is the first study to cast the century-old debate on the time intervals in which dental check-ups should occur into a predictive modeling framework that informs decisions regarding adaptive treatment strategies,” he said.

He believes the findings from this research could be used in the future to develop cost-effective and targeted clinical trials for the treatment of oral cancers.

Although the initial manuscript is under review, the study findings have already garnered national attention. One of his co-advised Ph.D. students won the coveted Distinguished Student Paper Award after presenting the research findings at the 2017 spring meetings of the East and North American Region of The International Biometric Society.   

Growing up in West Bengal, India, Bandyopadhyay attended a residential school for the majority of his upbringing where he learned the spiritual teachings of the Ramakrishna Mission.

Bandyopadhyay earned a master’s degree in statistics from the University of Calcutta at a time when statistics was relatively unpopular in comparison to the fields of physics, medicine, engineering and chemistry.

“My instructor used to say that if you learn statistics, you will have the opportunity to understand and discover solutions for real-life problems that other mathematicians sometimes do not,” Bandyopadhyay said.

With minimal access to computerized technologies in India, Bandyopadhyay was encouraged to apply for graduate school in the U.S., and he was accepted into the statistics program at the University of Georgia.

Graduating in 2006, he was hired by the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston as an assistant professor in the Department of Biostatistics, Bioinformatics and Epidemiology. After five years, he moved to the Midwest to become an associate professor in the Division of Biostatistics at the University of Minnesota (UMN) School of Public Health. It was there where his exposure to cancer research was born. As a member of the biostatistics core at the UMN Masonic Cancer Center, he assisted in the development of protocols and conducted data analysis for a number of studies on breast and tobacco-related cancers.

In 2015, he secured a position at VCU and was attracted by the cancer center’s push for a comprehensive designation from the National Cancer Institute. Only 48 cancer centers in the United States have received this recognition.

“That really acted as an impetus and gave me a big boost to want to make a difference here and contribute to that effort,” Bandyopadhyay said.

He said that Massey is structured differently than other research centers by allowing more opportunities for collaboration between investigators. Specifically, he applauded Massey Director Gordon Ginder, M.D., for prioritizing workload distribution throughout the Center’s shared research resource cores and enabling more biostatistics requests to be completed in a timely fashion.

Bandyopadhyay is an associate editor for the Journal of the American Statistical Association - Application & Case Studies (the front-ranking journal in applied biostatistics and the flagship journal of the American Statistical Association). He has published nearly 90 peer-reviewed articles in various academic journals. He received the Outstanding Young Researcher Award from International Indian Statistical Association and the CDC/ATSDR Statistical Science Award for Best Theoretical Paper. He was also selected as the Best Associate Editor of 2014 for the Journal of Agricultural, Biological and Environmental Statistics and as a CDC/ORISE Fellow for Research in Oral Health.

Bandyopadhyay lives in Richmond with his four-year-old daughter, Arushi, and wife, Mridula, who is currently completing her master’s degree in information systems at the VCU School of Business.

He enjoys North Indian and Pakistani cuisine in the West End area, country and traditional Indian music, watching movies and cooking. 

Written by: Blake Belden

Posted on: June 28, 2017