PhD in Pharmacy for Cancer Researcher
Dr Fisayo Andrew Olotu of Nigeria graduated with a PhD in Pharmacy following a study he did that presented medicinal chemistry and computer-aided drug design perspectives into the therapeutic blockage of crucial pro-carcinogenic machinery and their roles in cancer development.
Olotu says corroborated findings from his study would greatly facilitate the discovery of drugs with high selectivity for cancer targets and minimal toxicities.
The study - conducted under the supervision of Professor Mahmood Soliman - was titled: Delving into the Cancer World: Combinatorial in Silico Modelling and Investigations of Crucial Oncogenic Targets and Potential Therapeutic Approaches in Cancer Treatment.
His study reflected, to medicinal chemists and drug designers, the concept that fragmenting natural (possibly non-natural also) compounds could turn natural products abandoned (due to toxicities) into viable therapeutic weapons (high selectivity, less toxicities) for disease treatment.
‘The perpetual failure of existing therapeutic interventions in the treatment and management of cancer has left an obnoxious vacuum that will remain unfilled until an efficient regimen with minimal toxicities is achieved,’ said Olotu.
He says over the years several approaches have emerged which were strategically directed towards distinct cancer hallmarks, all in a bid to ameliorate carcinogenesis.
‘Regardless, cancer, being a multifactorial disease, has continued to evade chemotherapy and resist apoptosis, among many other unpleasant attributes. Moreover, in as much as the chemotherapeutic molecules seemed effective, they in themselves gradually became unusable and, in most cases, need to be discontinued in clinical stages due to associable toxic and adverse side effects.
‘This remains an irony which implies that while the battle to contain cancer is yet to be won, the deployed arsenals have also metamorphosed into threats, which have continued to raise “eyebrows”,’ said Olotu.
According to Olotu, computer-aided drug design has a lot of impact in achieving “perfect” drugs that are desired for disease treatment. ‘By saying “perfect”, I mean drugs with great selectivity for the pathogenic target and minimal adverse side effects.
‘Tunnel perturbation theory and how mutations could induce distortions and loss was an interesting model I implemented in my research methodology. Experiences gathered during the course of my PhD studies have been worthwhile, and it has transformed me into a dynamic computer-aided drug designer as evidenced by my continuous research outputs (30 peer-reviewed publications at present) and collaborations for which I was nominated for the Top 40 UKZN awards for excellence in 2018,’ he said.
Olotu is currently a post-doctoral researcher, ‘With the support of my supervisor, I have been privileged to work on several international research collaborations in medicinal chemistry and novel drug design.’
Words: Nombuso Dlamini
Photograph: Abhi Indrarajan