20-26 March 2015 #750

Nepali in leukemia discovery

himalkhabar.com, 15 March

A Nepali PhD student Sewa Rijal is among a team of researchers from Monash University in Melbourne, which discovered a gene in leukemia patients that causes resistance to chemotherapy. The discovery of the INPP4B gene was based on Rijal’s PhD thesis. Rijal did her A levels in Budhanilkantha School before moving to Australia for higher studies. Himal Khabarpatrika interviewed Rijal by email:

Himal Khabarpatrika: How did you feel when the leukemia gene was discovered?

Sewa Rijal: This finding was not something that was discovered overnight, it took five years of hard work from the entire research team at Monash. The feeling that you have contributed to knowledge in the field of cancer such as leukemia gives one a lot of satisfaction.

How does the discovery of the protein help the leukemia patients?

This protein can be a novel biomarker of the disease, guide treatment options and help avoid the unnecessary toxicity that comes with chemotherapy. Our current work is focused on understanding how this protein works to cause resistance to chemotherapy. If we understand this, we can target the protein and the pathway that it involves to cause pathogenesis, which can help treat acute myeloid leukemia more effectively.

Do you plan on coming back to Nepal?

I do plan to return to Nepal when I have enough experience to initiate cancer research in the country. I would like to establish a research center where we can have access to cancer tissue samples from hospitals around the valley and scientific equipment to carry out the research. I think this will require international collaboration with a university that is well-known for cancer research, such as Monash.

What are the major challenges you foresee?

It would have to be funding. Hopefully the government can contribute to medical research as in most developed countries. We can also get funding from international sources and charities.

Who do you attribute your success to?

My parents have always encouraged me to pursue higher education and I would like my story to be an inspiration to girls in Nepal to pursue higher education and lead the way.