Meet 5 For The Fight Fellow: Sheetal Hardikar, MBBS, PhD, MPH
Dr. Hardikar, a 5 For The Fight Fellow, is studying risk factors and outcomes in colorectal cancer patients
“My 5 is for my grandmother, who I was very close to and who was diagnosed with kidney cancer just before I moved to the US to pursue further education to become a cancer epidemiologist. My grandmother was born in a remote village in India and, though she wanted to, she could not go to school. Her parents didn’t have the resources, plus, she was a girl. After she got married to my grandfather, who was a teacher, she taught herself to read. She was a voracious reader and she actually taught me to read when I was in kindergarten. She always encouraged us to ask questions and I feel that has played an important role in my wanting to be a scientist.”
— Sheetal Hardikar
When Sheetal Hardikar heard she received the 5 For The Fight Fellowship, she did a little dance.
“I was really excited,” Hardikar says. “I think for me a really big part of my excitement was the validation of my research and my work. It gives me a lot of satisfaction and, of course, I was excited to have a whole new set of resources available for me through this fellowship, which will help my development as an independent scientist.”
Born in India, she did her undergraduate education in medicine but was always interested in research. “At that time there weren’t many resources available for doing research in India, so I decided to move to the United States to get training in population research.” She completed her masters at The Ohio State University and her PhD at University of Washington. Next, she completed her postdoctoral fellowship at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and joined Huntsman Cancer Institute as an assistant professor, focusing on the risk factors and progression of cancers of the gastrointestinal tract.
Hardikar studies multiple aspects of gastrointestinal cancers, particularly cancers of the esophagus and colon — why they occur, what puts people at increased risk for these cancers, and factors that may affect patients’ survival after developing these cancers. Over the last few years, Hardikar has focused her work on understanding the complex relationship between diabetes and cancer, two of the most common chronic conditions affecting a large percentage of the US population. Hardikar would like to understand how diabetes may contribute to the development and progression of cancer and vice versa.
“We know these two diseases affect so many people in this country. Diabetes contributes to the development and outcomes in cancer patients just as the risk of developing diabetes is higher among cancer patients than the general population. Therefore, it is important that we understand the interrelationship between cancer and diabetes to prevent and better treat diabetes outcomes in cancer patients, as well as reduce cancer risk among persons with diabetes,” Hardikar says.
Advice for Young Scientists
“Be shameless! You can always approach a senior person or email them to say that you really admire them. You might gain a valuable mentor from it.”
Find out more about the research you have helped fund through the 5 For The Fight Cancer Research Fellowship at Huntsman Cancer Institute.
5 For The Fight invites everyone to give $5 for the fight against cancer at 5forthefight.org