High school cancer researcher, published in two journals, presents findings

Harmony Science Academy Pflugerville Student Nikita Kondapalli's work was featured at the American Society of Hematology conference this week. Her findings will also appear in medical journals in the US and Japan. (KXAN Photo)
Harmony Science Academy Pflugerville Student Nikita Kondapalli's work was featured at the American Society of Hematology conference this week. Her findings will also appear in medical journals in the US and Japan. (KXAN Photo)

PFLUGERVILLE, Texas (KXAN) — Seventeen-year-old Nikita Kondapalli spent a month scouring a national medical database looking for links between Hodgkin’s Lymphoma cancer survivors, wanting to know their chances of developing other cancers five years after they beat the disease.

Nikita is part of a team of three high school students who discovered the risks.

“If someone had Hodgkin’s Lymphoma and they were over 50, they would know what to look for,” said Nikita, who is a student at Harmony Science Academy Pflugerville.

The young researchers discovered that former Hodgkin’s patients 49 years and younger had a greater chance of developing urinary cancers five year after being in remission. And for survivors 50 and older, their risk of respiratory cancers ticked up. The team submitted their findings to the American Society of Hematology, or ASH, for short.

And this week, the group invited them to unveil their findings at the ASH conference. It was a chance for trained researchers to test their discovery.

“You know how a science fair works, right? People come up to you and ask you questions about your project,” she said. “They were like, ‘I didn’t know this’ or ‘I didn’t know that.'”

Harmony Science Academy Pflugerville Student Nikita Kondapalli's work was featured at the American Society of Hematology conference this week. Her findings will also appear in medical journals in the US and Japan. (KXAN Photo)
Harmony Science Academy Pflugerville Student Nikita Kondapalli’s work was featured at the American Society of Hematology conference this week. Her findings will also appear in medical journals in the US and Japan. (KXAN Photo)

Nikita said she was challenged to do the project by a family friend, who is a doctor at Baylor, Scott and White Medical Center. He guided the group through their month-long research, inspecting it at times, and offering ideas at other times. He suggested that the team submit their work to ASH and showed them how to present it.

“He always said to be confident,” Nikita said. “He helped us a lot. He brought us this opportunity,”

Nikita said she doesn’t share much about her weekend research with classmates or her teachers. They will not understand most of it, she said.

“There were a lot of things that we didn’t understand,” she said.

At the conference, Nikita said other researchers and doctors were amazed by her findings. And they had one request: do more research.

“That’s what we want to do,” said Nikita. “Theories on how people get such high risks for those cancers.” What’s more, her findings will soon be published in two medical journals, one in the U.S. and one in Japan.

Nikita said right now her research is on hold as she focuses on getting into college, preferably the University of Texas Austin. She wants to attend medical school. And her research project may be the golden ticket in.

“I didn’t do it for that, but I would like it to be,” she said. Her team will most likely begin a new research project in the summer.

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