Griffith University Pharmacy: From Bench to Bedside

Meet Griffith PhD candidate Liam, who talks about his journey as a pharmacy student and taking his research as a student from the lab to a clinical trial for prostate cancer.

Hi everyone my name is nicole i’m from oz trek and i’m here with liam who is a student at griffith and he’s a phd candidate hi everyone i’ll just bring up my slides here okay thanks nicole so just to further introduce myself my name’s liam king i’m a phd candidate at the school of pharmacy and medical science at griffith university so a bit of background of

My pharmacy journey and how i’ve come to where i am um today so back in 2012 i first graduated from the australian national university in canberra with a bachelor of science uh and then in 2013 i moved up to the gold coast and i wasn’t quite sure as to what what i was going to do even coming out of school i i did well in school but didn’t know what i wanted to

Study or what career path i wanted to take and i enjoyed science so that’s why i took up the bachelor of science at um australian national university and then when i came to the gold coast i was trying to find work and different avenues within the science field and i actually majored in chemistry and immunology in my science degree and had a look at what griffith

University had to offer and based on this they had a fairly extensive pharmacy program and i thought this would be a good avenue to explore given my past studies in chemistry and immunology and my interpretation was that pharmacy is kind of where these two these two areas meet so i had a look online and found that griffith university offered a prior learning

Pathway uh into doing bachelor of pharmaceutical science which meant that with my prior learning i could get some credit for the courses i’d already done and i was able to then go in and do a couple of summer courses and complete my bachelor of pharmaceutical science in 2014. from the moment i guess for my first summer course i did at griffith university i

Because i was really engaged with the lecturing staff there and the content in the course and from there i guess my interest in pharmacy grew and the passion for that area of science was really uh i guess became evident in my career path as to where i ended up so after completing that bachelor of pharmaceutical science i then um applied and got into the master of

Pharmacy program at griffith so this was at the time it was a one and a half year program which then enabled you to get the professional qualification to become a pharmacist and as part of that we also did some research projects that masters programs now turn to a two-year program and has quite an extensive and exciting research component to it so it’s a really

Beneficial degree and sets people up really well going into the pharmacy profession so in 2016 i completed that master of pharmacy and then in australia we go into an internship year where we have to work as a pharmacy intern um before we’re fully registered and throughout that intern year so i also began to do a master of medical research as a part-time student

This was a two-year degree at the time and i was doing it part-time along alongside working and i sort of just rolled through into this from the master of pharmacy through um the different lecturers and academics within the pharmacy school um showing interest in my learning and and wanting me to continue to be involved in that research space so we did some really

Exciting work in that in that master medical research we looked at anti-inflammatory drugs and how they impact prostate cancer and their ability to potentially improve the current treatments of prostate cancer so i completed that master medical research in 2018 and then in 2019 i applied and was accepted as a phd candidate at griffith university so i’m currently

Still undergoing uh that phd candidature and i’m doing that part-time at the moment and hopefully to complete that within the next sort of two to three years so i guess my my time at griffith university has um sort of just rolled one into the other uh and i think the environment within that pharmacy school is what’s really kept me engaged in learning and wanted

To keep that contact and continue down this research pathway so alongside my studies i also in my master of pharmacy year i sorry during my bachelor of pharmaceutical science i was employed at ramsey pharmacy as a student and then went through to become an intern pharmacist there and then a clinical pharmacist and an oncology and clinical trials pharmacist and

Finally my current role uh is the clinical trials pharmacist lead for ramsey pharmacy australia so i guess my griffith university pharmacy education really set me up well to transition through these different areas within the ramsey pharmacy business and also the master of medical research was really beneficial in me getting those further qualifications to go

Through their clinical trials pharmacist and and managing to get that lead position for ramsey pharmacy and my phd will also further enhance that research learning and be really beneficial for that research pharmacy research career so a little bit about my phd project at the moment which is quite exciting and interesting we’re looking at prostate cancer so we’re

Looking at repurposing certain drugs that are currently available for different disease conditions and reusing them in the treatment of cancer and more specifically prostate cancer so the reason that our group focuses on prostate cancer is it’s one of um it’s the fourth most common cancer worldwide uh and it’s the second most common cancer in men and in australia

Um there’s over 16 000 new cases diagnosed each year and it’s the second leading cause of death in australian men so it’s quite a prevalent cancer um around the world and within australia so it’s an area that our group is really focusing on to try and enhance the treatment methods so currently um there’s a number of different treatment methods for prostate cancer

Our group at this stage is focal focusing on what we call the androgen dependent prostate cancer so that’s a localized prostate cancer or the earlier stage prostate cancers before they become and transition and become more aggressive so there’s watchful waiting on active surveillance so that’s for disease that’s very low grade the best way to treat that rather

Rather than with invasive treatments it’s just to watch and keep an eye on it um potentially there’s option for surgery so surgical removal of um the prostate gland energy and deprivation which is what we do androgens are a type of hormone the prostate cancer relies upon to grow so we essentially starve the prostate of those androgens and starving it of its

Food that it needs to grow and the other option is radiotherapy where we target the prostate cancer with different radiotherapy methods and aim to kill those prostate cancer cells so which treatment is chosen depends on a number of things the classification of the disease the stage and the grade of the disease so how severe it is the severity of the symptoms as

Well um the patient’s age and any other comorbidities that might affect their treatment so for example patients that are older and frail we might not want them to undergo surgery so they might be a candidate for radiotherapy instead so this slide just is outlining that whilst we have these treatments that are relatively effective in treating prostate cancer or

Early prostate cancer there’s a large number of side effects and adverse outcomes that come along with these and there’s a need for us to further uh refine and enhance these treatments to reduce the impact on the quality of life of many patients so for our group um we have been one class of drugs we’re focusing on are the alpha blockers so these are traditionally

Used um to treat people with high blood pressure or sometimes um in men that have enlarged prostates that are not cancerous and there’s a number of different alpha blockers within that drug group um so for example we have terezasin and present doxazosin also naphtopodil and tamsulasan so whilst they’re all within the same alpha blocker group they have a number of

Different chemical structures which also uh changes their ability to impact cancer cells so some past work from our group we found that terrazas and processing and doxazosin have um cytotoxic or the ability to kill androgen dependent and also ancient independent prostate cancer cells so those androgen independent cells are the ones that are more advanced and don’t

Rely on those androgens for growth and we found a structurally similar drug to these what we call quinasaline structured alpha blockers uh naphtopodeal also produced these cytotoxic effects however interestingly uh tamsulasan which is a sulfonamide derivative and one of the most commonly used alpha blockers in men with enlarged prostates did not have this same

Cytotoxic effect following this we start to focus on um these the uh quinasalines and specifically prozac and doxazosin within the lab and we expose prostate cancer cells to these drugs and see how to uh saw how they affected the growth and survival and it was found that processing especially as well as doxazosin had a quite a profound effect on the cell survival

Of the prostate cancer cells and we decided we continue to focus on practicing uh because in australia doxazosin is not available to patients whereas president is so that became our drug of choice to focus on and hone in on further studies so following that work in the lab we switched to a bedside model and we looked at how these drugs actually affect individual

Patients and real life human patients and we conduct our group conducted a retrospective patient data analysis so this is where we we look at patient medical records and we go back in time and review um what the what these patients were doing during their radiotherapy treatment so we took a list of all the patients that were taking processing and tamshulison during

Their radiotherapy for prostate cancer and then we we looked at how long uh between the time when they had radiotherapy and when their prostate cancer returned and we’re looking for any difference between those people that took president themselves and versus those that didn’t in um how long it took for them to for their cancer to return so i it was the processing

Group had really amazing results we found that five years only 8.8 percent of patients had relapses their cancer had relapse this is compared to 34 and a half percent in the control group so those that weren’t taking any um alpha blockers during their radiotherapy treatment and interestingly tim schillerson as we found with our lab-based studies seemed to have no

Real effect on overall survival or the um the recurrence of the prostate cancer so once again this sort of further confirmed that processing was the drug that we needed to focus on and look at potentially for repurposing into prostate cancer so our next stages so where are we at now so my phd project we’re focusing on transitioning this into a prospective clinical

Trial so this is where we put patients onto the drug and monitor them going forward rather than looking back in time so this study where firstly you’re doing a feasibility study and this is titled a feasibility study of the repurposing of presence to improve treatment outcomes in men receiving radiotherapy for prostate cancer or the acronym we’ve given that study

Is the mini wrap double zero study so participants are going to take presence in escalating doses during their radiotherapy for prostate cancer and we’re aiming to have 30 participants in this study and quite excitingly this is going to the first ever clinical trial that’s explored the combination of practicing and radiotherapy for men with prostate cancer so

It’s a really exciting field that we’re getting into and potentially being the first researchers to just show prospectively in human patients that this combination is work works and is effective for prostate cancer so the potential impacts of this trial we’re looking to guide us to have a bigger um large-scale clinical trial after we’ve shown feasibility with

These 30 participants so then we’re looking to stretch this into hundreds of patients and we’ll have a placebo-controlled trial to really strongly show the efficacy of crisis and combine radiotherapy so this has the ability to uh impact a large group of men in australia um prostate cancer is very prevalent so it’s um 16 thousand men each year are diagnosed um it

Makes up twenty two percent of all male cancer diagnosis in australia which is huge uh and twelve percent of all male deaths last year um came from prostate cancer so if we’re able to impact prostate cancer early improve our treatment outcomes and slow the spread or the progression to the more aggressive lethal disease prostate cancer we’re able to really have an

Impact on these men and extend their life and extend their cancer free free life and quality of life so thank you for listening today and i guess just to summarize my time at griffith enabled me to to develop an interest in pharmacy but also push that further and go into research and now as a pharmacist as a health professional it’s really rewarding to be able

To impact patients patients lives with these discovering of new treatment methods improving the cancer treatment and really having an impact not just working within the healthcare system so thank you amazing thanks so much liam we do have one question here i’ll just read it out to you um can you just tell everyone a bit more about support that you’ve received

From griffith in your phd and how everything works yeah yep so um griffith have been uh very supportive of psg and i guess the really important thing for me they’ve been very flexible uh in that i’m working full time as well as conducting this phd um every every or not even every week every couple of days i’m in contact with our supervisor and the academics at

Griffith have really to me it’s it’s not a teacher-student relationship um it’s very um level field we we can talk about anything in everything and anything uh and we have also sort of developed that rapport right from when i was an undergraduate back in 2013 um and and the team i guess around the griffith pharmacy they’re all very personable um i’d know almost

All the academics by name and they would do the same for me even back in my undergraduate degree which was really appreciated um i think coming from australian national university which is a fantastic university they have great research great programs like griffith really had that extra step of having more personal relationship with the students which i think was

Really really valuable and even now griffith values the collaboration between the different partners so we collaborate on a lot of our research projects through ramsey pharmacy and griffith uni we work with bond uni and we also work with a number of the oncology clinics and radiation clinics around the gold coast so it’s a very holistic approach i think to the idea

Of pharmacy and the research world and very accommodating and flexible amazing well thank you so much for sharing your research and your story um we are at time now so if anyone has any questions will you be in the chat group after this yeah i can be yep perfect okay great thanks so much liam no worries thank you take care

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Griffith University Pharmacy: From Bench to Bedside By OzTREKK educational services