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International collaboration develops in Jiann-Ping Hsu College of Public Health

In Karl Peace’s classroom in the Jiann-Ping Hsu College of Public Health, international collaboration advanced to a whole new level this semester.

Peace and three graduate students in his ‘Statistical Issues in Drug Research and Development” class”one from India and two from China”along with Saulet Nurtayeva, a visiting medical and radiation oncologist from Kazakhstan, developed a drug trial protocol for Cordyceps silensis, a traditional Chinese herbal medicine. Nurtayeva will take the protocol back to Kazakhstan and implement it with breast cancer patients in her country.

‘Although the fungus Cordyceps silensis is not used here and there are very few studies about it, it is often used in China,” said Peace. ‘Cordyceps is known to be an immuno-modulator, so it affects the immune system. Dr. Nurtayeva brought it to the attention of the class, asking if it would be helpful in ameliorating the side effects of chemotherapy treatment.”

Peace asked his students to work with Nurtyeva to design a study that would answer her question. After developing criteria for the Stage II-IV breast cancer patients in chemotherapy who will participate in the study, the group chose to study three groups of patients: those who will be treated with a placebo, those who will be treated with two milliliters of Cordyceps sinensis, and those who will be treated with five milliliters of Cordyceps sinensis. Two different doses will be tested to assess whether response is dose-related. Patients meeting the criteria will be enrolled in the Cordyceps silensis drug trial until there are 50 patients in each of the three treatment groups.

Nurtayeva, who has been at Georgia Southern since January 2007 as a guest of the U.S. Department of State, will return to Kazakhstan at the end of May. She is excited about sharing the protocol and its development with her colleagues.

‘In Kazakhstan most doctors don’t have experience in how to do clinical trials,” said Nurtayeva. ‘Working with Dr. Peace and his class to develop this protocol, I learned how to conduct the trials, and I got experience using an interdisciplinary team approach to solve problems. Instead of seeing drugs that are the end product of clinical trials, now I know how they are developed and tested.”

‘Dr. Peace has a lot of practical experience in developing drug trial protocols, and that was a great help to our group,” she said. ‘Because of his experience, he was able to help us find ways to save time and minimize costs. He has been an excellent teacher, and he really encouraged me.”

Nurtayeva says that physicians and faculty at West Kazakhstan Medical School, where she is an assistant professor, would like to develop their own drug trial protocols. She plans to share what she has learned, and hopes to encourage her colleagues to develop their own projects.

‘The Chinese have 4,000 years of empirical evidence that Cordyceps sinensis has a positive effect on the immune system,” said Nurtayeva, ‘but this drug protocol will give us the scientific evidence to prove it. I would like to see scientists continue sharing this kind of knowledge and research. I hope my experience is just the beginning.”

For more information about the Jiann-Ping Hsu College of Public Health, its academic programs, its centers of excellence, and its faculty, visit http://jphcoph.georgiasouthern.edu/.

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