The James L. Winkle College of Pharmacy attracts the best and brightest doctoral students to its PhD programs. Among the 35 graduate students currently working toward their PhD in pharmaceutical sciences at the college is Ganesh Moorthy, the 2014 winner of the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) GlaxoSmithKline Outstanding Clinical Scholar Award. This highly competitive, scholar-in-training award recognizes promising young cancer researchers who are the authors of outstanding proffered papers related to clinical research. Moorthy is slated to graduate in December 2014.
How long have you been at UC?
Approximately five years, and about to graduate and looking for jobs now!
What is your educational background?
I received my master’s in pharmaceutical sciences from BITS (Birla Institute of Technology and Science), Pilani, India, and worked as a junior researcher in the R&D department of a global pharmaceutical company before joining UC.
Why did you choose the University of Cincinnati?
Primarily to join the research program of my mentor, Professor Pankaj Desai, PhD, in the College of Pharmacy who is well known expert in anti-cancer drug development. My area of research interest that entails bridging pre-clinical studies to clinical outcomes and aid in optimization of cancer therapeutics matched closely with the ongoing projects in Dr. Desai’s laboratory.
What sparked your interest in cancer research, and what is your area of concentration?
I was fortunate to have had an opportunity to work on anti-cancer agents even as an undergrad student. I worked on pre-clinical research on Imatinib, the first targeted therapy for cancer. This experience made me aware early on that most anti-cancer drugs have narrow therapeutic index and given that most cancer treatment protocols require use of multiple drugs, there is usually a huge risk of adverse drug interactions. Thus, when an opportunity was provided to me to work on a project focused on optimizing the use of a combination of novel anti-cancer drugs (which includes Dr. Desai and professors in the College of Medicine’s department of internal medicine, division of hematology oncology John Morris, MD, and George Thomas, PhD), I jumped at it. In this trial, two targeted drugs (BEZ235) and everolimus, are being investigated for the treatment of solid tumors. Based on the clinical pharmacology of these compounds we hypothesized that BEZ235 inhibits the metabolic clearance of everolimus resulting in considerable increase in the plasma levels of everolimus. Pharmacokinetics and an assessment of drug interactions are crucial for dose escalation in such trials. Thus, this project gave me a great opportunity to participate in conducting clinical pharmacology assessments in cancer patients while conducting correlative in vitro studies to gain mechanistic insights in the postulated drug interaction.
The American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) only recognizes 10 percent of applicants for the scholar-in-training award…what research did you present and were you surprised to win?
My work was built on the hypothesis that BEZ235 inhibits the hepatic metabolism of everolimus. The American Association for Cancer Research is a premier international organization and a very competitive one, too. I was pleasantly surprised to receive this award–I was not sure when my advisor nominated me for this award if I would make the cut!