DOUBLEVIEW doctor Rishi Kotecha was inspired to return to paediatric oncology when he met the children he had treated years later.
“When I first did oncology, I thought this is too tough; a few years later I saw kids I treated the first time going to university and they were having a normal life,” he said.
“That was the reason I did it: it made me feel I had actually made a big difference to people’s lives.
“A couple of boys who had leukaemia when they were little said to me, ‘I will remember you for the rest of my life’. I still keep in touch with a lot of them now; some are married and some are having kids and it’s really what is so rewarding about this speciality.”
The 38-year-old has been awarded Cancer Council WA’s Early Career Cancer Researcher of the Year for his research into treating babies with leukaemia.
“The research I’m doing at the moment is about babies with leukaemia, who have really bad outcomes; their survival is less than 40 per cent,” he said. “I really want to try and improve those outcomes.
“The chemotherapy drugs we give now are really toxic to babies; many die from the side effects of the chemotherapy. We’re trying to find new drugs, which are less toxic, that we can give to babies that will improve their survival and reduce the toxic effects.”
Dr Kotecha said the award would help grow and improve his research team.
“I want to grow the lab, get more people researching and manage more projects to identify new treatments and improve outcomes for kids with cancer,” he said.
“It also makes me feel that what I am doing is valuable to the community in WA.
“When I am working late at night and sometimes wonder why I keep persevering with research, receipt of the award supports and provides validation to the cancer research I am conducting and another reason to keep going.”