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Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital, Ohio State University

TOP - April 2012, Vol 5, No 2 published on April 27, 2012 in Cancer Center Profile

The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center–Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital (OSUCCC–James), located in Columbus, Ohio, is 1 of only 41 centers in the United States designated by the National Cancer Institute (NCI) as a Comprehensive Cancer Center. The OSUCCC– James program is part of Ohio State University and is affiliated with the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, one of the largest medical centers in the country. Established in 1973, the OSUCCC–James is the Mid-west’s first and Ohio’s only freestanding cancer hospital. OSUCCC–James is 1 of 5 centers in the country approved by the NCI to conduct both phase 1 and phase 2 clinical trials for new anticancer drugs.

Ali McBride, PharmD, MS, BCPS, is a specialty practice pharmacist at OSUCCC–James. He answered our questions about the field of oncology and the role of the oncology pharmacist.

What are you excited about right now in the field of oncology?

Ali McBride (AM): Oncology is a practice that continues to grow and is everchanging, as we enter onto a path of genomic-based research and molecularly targeted therapies. New therapies are hitting the market for prostate cancer, breast cancer, and leukemia. We are seeing promising molecular therapies in chronic lymphocytic leukemia and acute lymphoblastic leukemia. The introduction of new therapies in myelofibrosis has opened the door to this field, in which no therapies showed much promise just a decade ago.

How has the role of the oncology pharmacist changed over the past 5 years?

AM: Oncology pharmacists have been changing with the advent of translational medicine. Twenty years ago, the face of pharmacy was focused on conventional chemotherapy, consisting of vinca alkaloids, anthracyclines, nitrogen mustards, and numerous other agents. Since that time the face of pharmacy has moved with science as therapies have become focused on cell signaling processes, molecular markers, and gene variants. The development of these new therapies has also brought cytogenetic and pharmacogenomics data to the forefront, as oncology pharmacists are able to help determine the appropriate therapies for numerous mutations in disease states, including breast and colorectal cancer, myelodysplastic syndrome, leukemia, and lymphoma.

What inspired you to become an oncology pharmacist?

AM: My inspiration to enter hematology/oncology practice actually stemmed from my work as a scientist before I entered pharmacy school. I graduated from Purdue University with a BS and MS in neurobiology and physiology and biochemistry and decided to focus on cell adhesion and protein signaling research. The areas I focused on included tyrosine and serine/threonine kinase inhibitors in the cell signaling process as well as drug resistance proteins upregulated in cancer cells. Going to pharmacy school at the University of Arizona and training at Moffitt Cancer Center for my PGY-2 residency allowed me to combine my basic science background with clinical application in oncology. The combination of these 2 fields has helped me keep abreast of the new changes in chemotherapy as we continue to move forward to molecular-based therapy regimens.

Any advice for new pharmacists?

AM: I think the toughest issue for new practitioners today is finding a focus. Oncology is a field of diversity, as you may be working in specific disease states that require intense learning and years of devotion. In some cases your face may be buried in the grindstone, and it will be up to you to realize the process of oncology practice. Once that happens, you will be able to make not just small patient changes for your practice, you will be able to guide larger changes in the practice of pharmacy.

If you weren’t a pharmacist, what would you be doing?

AM: If I were not a pharmacist, I would most likely have entered a trade profession after college. My father is a transmission mechanic and, having been associated with cars for so long, this would have been my natural progression into the field. This is in no correlation to the widely heralded novel Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance but rather an analogy to the constant work and erudition mechanics in the field have to update themselves on in terms of new transmission systems, electronic interfaces, and diagnostic criteria for individual makes and models of cars. The constant work that is needed to maintain the level of competency is hard, and the required tools are expensive. However, there is nothing more amazing to watch than a transmission mechanic breaking down every part in the transmission casing and then rebuilding it without extra pieces to be found.

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Last modified: July 22, 2021