Adil Akthar, MS 5, spent nearly seven months this past year working on various research projects with radiation oncologist Renuka Malik, M.D., at the University of Chicago Medicine. One of those projects recently earned him a $5,000 research award from the Alpha Omega Alpha Honor Medical Society.
The AOA awarded Akthar the 2013 Carolyn L. Kuckein Student Research Fellowship for his work exploring the effectiveness of PET/CT scans in determining the spread of lung cancer to the lymph nodes.
Akthar said he began his project on PET/CT scans last December during a leave of absence from the School of Medicine to work with Malik, an accomplished researcher and author in the field of radiation oncology.
“With her expertise and guidance, I applied for a grant to fund our project on PET/CT negative prediction value and received the AOA fellowship,” Akthar said.
He is now back in Kansas City doing clinical rotations at the School of Medicine while also working on a manuscript of his research. The AOA fellowship will fund his continued work on the project while he maintains his studies at the School of Medicine.
Aktahr said the theory behind his research is that PET/CT scans can sometimes miss cancer that is present in lymph nodes around the hilum, the main airways and blood vessels that enter the lung tissue. As a result, patients may be inaccurately treated with high doses of radiation to only the tumor on the lung without receiving the appropriate therapy to the affected lymph nodes.
“If we are able to show the limitations of the PET/CT scans in excluding the spread of cancer to the hilar lymph nodes, our research will support the routine investigation of these nodes by more direct ways such as tissue biopsy,” Akthar said.
Akthar said he hopes to submit the final results to a scientific journal for publication by the end of the year. In the meantime, he plans to begin applying for a residency position in radiation oncology this fall.
“I hope to use this experience as a stepping stone for clinical research in the future,” he said.