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Did You Know? Pharmacists Play an Important Role in Oncology Research

woman scientist on computer
woman scientist on computer

Many pharmacist-led and CAPhO-supported research initiatives are contributing significantly to advancing cancer care in Canada.

Canadians who are affected by cancer are generally supported by a whole team of health care professionals who work together to help both patients and caregivers through their cancer journey. Oncology pharmacy teams are an important part of that collaborative support network. They support patients and caregivers with patient education, chemotherapy clinical review (including identifying drug interactions with home medications and evaluating liver and kidney function during therapy), and product preparation.

What many people don’t know is that oncology pharmacists also play a vital role in research: measuring and standardizing oncology pharmacy care, ensuring that all Canadians receive the same high levels of pharmacy care, and collaborating to ensure optimal use of new medications.

Supporting oncology research

“Working with patients and caregivers when they’re in a highly stressful time in their lives is very humbling and fulfilling,” says Tiffany Nguyen, an oncology pharmacist and Chair of the Canadian Association of Pharmacy in Oncology (CAPhO) Research Committee. “There are always new and exciting oncology therapies coming out, so there are lots of opportunities for research as well.”

Nguyen took a keen interest in research thanks to a series of opportunities to work with inspiring mentors throughout her education and career, and she’s not alone. Many oncology pharmacists participate in oncology research, and CAPhO is there to support them.

CAPhO is a member-directed association that promotes, supports, and advances oncology pharmacy practice. Its members include pharmacists, pharmacy technicians, assistants, and students, and it contributes to member professional development through mentorship, education, and research support.

“Our main goal on the Research Committee is to help facilitate research activity for CAPhO members,” says Nguyen. “We help coordinate the research poster abstract presentation at our annual CAPhO conference, offer research grants, and connect members who are performing research.”

Making a difference

The research initiatives undertaken by CAPhO members are making a difference in Canadian cancer care. “The last study that was rewarded a CAPhO research grant looked at how pharmacists can improve immunotherapy safety for patients living with cancer,” says Nguyen. “We also just awarded a research grant for an innovative project on take-home cancer medications, to make sure that the medication use is safe in the community.”

The CAPhO Research Committee is also currently working on developing a nation-wide research mentor network. “It’ll connect members who are interested in research with people who are experienced in research,” explains Nguyen. “With this network, we hope to help provide opportunities for collaboration on research projects across Canada and oncology pharmacy practice, because different researchers could be working on a similar idea in different places across Canada, so why not collaborate?”

Getting involved in research gives oncology pharmacists the opportunity to be creative, to problem-solve, and to collaborate. “Pharmacists can be key contributors to push research forward,” says Nguyen. “We can help to improve safety, quality, and patient care, and those are important goals.”

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