At 17 Nikhil Autar was like any other Sydney school boy studying for his HSC and training for athletics in the afternoons.
But things started to change for him when he started getting unusually tired in the afternoons, going home and falling asleep for hours before dinner and then sleeping through the night.
Finally after a number of tests, confirmation came from a straight-shooting local doctor who told him: “The bad news is, you’re 17 and have leukaemia. The good news is, you’re 17 and have leukaemia”.
Nikhil was told he had less than a 20 per cent chance of being alive to celebrate his 22nd birthday. Today, Nikhil is a member of the Ingham Institute’s cancer research team completing a degree in Medical Research at Western Sydney University and is in full remission, a patient who became a scientist.
His research is focused on developing a new blood test to detect cancer cells that manage to avoid the immune system. A blood test that is needed for the approximate 900 Australians every year who, like himself, are diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukaemia.
Eventually, like many of the cancer research programs conducted at the Institute, Nikhil’s work will progress into a trial phase to confirm its accuracy and effectiveness before it becomes a standard test used by doctors.
The Ingham Institute is testing more than 200 new cancer treatments in clinical trials programs across South West Sydney together with our local hospitals. These new treatments are the end stage of medical research where many years of hard work in the lab are translated to patient care.
Patients participating in a clinical trial can assist in finding superior treatments, therapies and diagnostic tests for the future management of a particular disease or condition. Playing an active role in a clinical trial is also valuable for people with rare or difficult-to-treat conditions for which there may be limited evidence about how the condition is best treated or managed.
On October 24, the Ingham Institute is holding a Community Cancer forum at Wests Leagues Club, Campbelltown. Nikhil and leading cancer researchers will be talking about their research and answering questions. The forum starts at 7pm and is free to attend. Details: 1300 66 55 41.
- Column by Ingham Institute for Applied Medical Research