A drug created at the University of Minnesota may hold the answer to defeating pancreatic cancer, according to results published in a 2012 issue of the journal Science Translational Medicine. Minnelide is a type of injectable chemotherapy designed to target tumor cells. The drug works by inhibiting a heat shock protein, HSP 70, which has been proven to aid tumor cell growth. By stopping HSP 70 from working, Minnelide disperses the cells integral to the tumor’s growth and the cancer disintegrates.
“A diagnosis of pancreatic cancer is incredibly grim,” said Dr. Gunda I. Georg, director of the Institute for Therapeutics Discovery and Development in the College of Pharmacy. “There is no good way to treat or cure this particular type of cancer and the best options currently available offer just six weeks of added survival.”
In 2007, university researchers discovered pancreatic cancer cells have too much HSP 70, which protects cells from dying. Dr. Ashok Saluja, professor and vice chair of research in the Department of Surgery, found that triptolide, a compound derived from plants in China, worked to halt the development of HSP 70 in tumor cells but because triptolide is not water soluble, it was difficult to administer to patients. The University of Minnesota holds the patent on the modifying factors that create Minnelide from triptolide. It has been licensed to Minneamrita Therapeutics LLC for clinical trials and potential production.
A federal grant from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services will help Samford University’s McWhorter School of Pharmacy work to reduce hospitalizations among Medicare-Medicaid dual enrollees in 23 Alabama nursing home facilities. The four-year, $865,568 grant is part of a program led by the Alabama Quality Assurance Foundation, one of seven organizations that is partnering with CMS to improve quality of care and reduce patient hospitalizations at 145 nursing homes nationwide.
Pharmacists at Samford’s Global Drug Information Service are providing evidence-based decision support for healthcare providers and educating healthcare professionals regarding the rational use of medications, according to GDIS Director Maisha Kelly Freeman, Pharm.D. “The pharmacists will implement quality improvement projects to reduce the risk of adverse events and avoidable hospitalizations related to use of high-risk medications,” Freeman said. “They will also provide continuing education seminars on the appropriate use of medications, facilitate training sessions with nursing personnel and evaluate the success of the educational initiative.”
In March, students from a political advocacy class at Harding University College of Pharmacy watched Arkansas Governor Mike Beebe sign HB 1185, which modifies the definition of a prescription under the Pharmacy Practice Act. The act now allows a pharmacist “to substitute a therapeutically equivalent drug that is at a lower cost to the patient and communicate that authorization by any generally accepted means of communication of a prescription for a prescriber to a pharmacist.” Patients benefit from an improvement in the dispensing process and from having their pharmacist more intimately involved in their medication therapy.
Supporters of the bill included the Arkansas Pharmacists’ Association and the Harding University students who conceived the idea, helped draft legislation and developed a white paper with talking points. Students also met with lawmakers to garner support for the bill. They hosted a dinner on campus creating a forum for dialogue between community pharmacists, students, APA and local legislators.
Potential drugs can be tested for effectiveness and safety at the new $1 million laboratory, called UT Advance, at The University of Texas at Austin. “These are the final, pivotal studies that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will review before they are allowed into human trials,” said Dr. Janet C. Walkow, executive director and chief technology officer of the university’s Drug Dynamics Institute. The tests could also aid in filing for patents and reaching commercialization agreements for pharmaceuticals and biomedical technology.
University researchers are developing drugs to treat people who have had lung transplants, suffer from cancer, or have viruses such as influenza and other diseases. UT Advance, which is a Good Laboratory Practices facility, is focusing on inhaled drug products. A GLP facility certifies that a potential drug is safe to use in clinical trials involving humans and provides assurance that procedures and documentation meet FDA requirements. Having GLP capabilities will reduce costs and time that researchers spend on such tests in commercial facilities, according to university officials. The lab is open for use by biotech companies and other entities outside the university.
Dr. Gilbert J. Hite, professor at the University of Connecticut School of Pharmacy, died on June 4, 2012. After receiving his doctorate in medicinal chemistry from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1959, Hite taught for three years at Howard University, 12 years at Columbia University and more than 20 years at the University of Connecticut. A strong advocate for teaching medicinal chemistry in the pharmacy curriculum, his chapter on analgesics in Foye’s Principles of Medicinal Chemistry provided the definitive word on the structure-activity relationships of opiate drugs. Hite’s research changed the prevailing theory of the major molecular feature required to anchor opiate drugs in the receptor site to produce analgesia. The quality of his research and teaching saw him recognized as a fellow by the American Association of Pharmaceutical Scientists.
Dr. Avis J. Ericson passed away Dec. 15, 2012. Born in Chicago, Illinois on Feb. 27, 1947, Ericson served in many roles throughout her career, most notably as the first dean of the Loma Linda University School of Pharmacy. She earned her doctorate of pharmacy at the University of Kentucky and became prominent in women’s health issues while serving in a faculty position at the Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences in Boston. She was soon named chair of the clinical department at the St. Louis College of Pharmacy, before accepting professorship at Loma Linda. It was there that she was tasked with designing and building the academic program for its newly-founded School of Pharmacy. She was an active member and officer of Lambda Kappa Sigma, a professional fraternity in pharmacy.
Dr. Lucy N. Ngoh, associate professor at Ferris State University College of Pharmacy, died Dec. 30, 2012, after being injured in a bus accident in her native Cameroon. Ngoh began work at Ferris’ College of Pharmacy in 1992, following her completion of a doctorate in philosophy from The University of Texas at Austin. A certified health education specialist and registered pharmacist with a master’s in health administration, her research and teaching interests included health literacy, service learning and international health. Ngoh served the university as a member of the Academic Senate, as secretary and on its executive committee, and as a member of both the Faculty Center for Teaching and Learning Advisory Group and the International Education Committee. She was also active in the community, volunteering for the Mecosta-Osceola chapter of the American Red Cross and the Big Rapids branch of the American Association of University Women.