Kathy Giacomini, PhD, a leader in the field of pharmacogenomics, has been named the 2017 recipient of the North American Scientific Achievement Award, presented by the International Society for the Study of Xenobiotics (ISSX). ISSX is an international association of scientists that promotes the understanding of the interactions of medicines and chemicals with living systems.
Studies of pharmacogenetics testing of pharmacy students as a teaching tool, an improved system to resolve medication issues after patients go home from the hospital, and the prophylactic use of an antiseizure drug for brain surgery patients took top honors at the Department of Clinical Pharmacy 18th Annual Spring Research Seminar.
(left to right) The Galega officinalis (aka French lilac)was used as a folk remedy for diabetes symptoms for centuries before analysis of its extracts revealed compounds that lowered blood sugar. Eventually, metformin (molecule and pill) was developed. It is a related molecule that is longer acting and less toxic than the plant extracts. Metformin acts on cells in the liver (center and cross-section right) to reduce glucose production and thus blood sugar.
In people with type 2 diabetes, the body is less able to use the hormone insulin to regulate blood sugar. The disease affects 350 million patients globally—including 29 million in the United States, where it is the leading cause of blindness, kidney failure, and non-accident-related amputations.
Taxanes are a class of drugs widely used to treat a variety of cancers, including breast, ovarian, lung, gastric, and head and neck. But dosages are often limited by toxic side effects—most commonly damage to the body’s peripheral nerves, causing numbness, pain, and/or hyper-sensitivity—that can require reduced or suspended treatment and which can linger for years in disease survivors.
Spiked rods of uric acid crystals from synovial fluid photographed under a microscope with polarized light. In patients with gout, such crystals can accumulate in the joints, causing pain and inflammation.
Allopurinol, the first-choice medication for treating gout—an excruciatingly painful condition that is the most common form of inflammatory arthritis, afflicts more than eight million Americans, and is on the rise worldwide—is not fully effective in more than half of patients.
I seek to understand, at the systems level, how biological networks within cancer cells are fundamentally different from those in normal cells. Using a variety of experimental techniques, I design new platforms for the rational application of personalized medicine and the design of combination cancer therapies.