Renowned expert joins precision dosing research team

Thanks to the support of family, friends and the community, a courageous cancer fighter’s goal has been achieved.

After being diagnosed with Stage 4 lung cancer at only 32 years of age, Ryan Hodges dedicated much of his free time to raising funds for research into precision dosing of targeted cancer therapies at Flinders.

Targeted cancer therapies attack specific cancer cells, unlike more traditional cancer treatments, such as chemotherapy, which target all cells in the body – including healthy cells. However, these targeted therapies are still prescribed as a ‘one-size fits-all’ dose.

The SA Precision Dosing Program is aiming to change that, ensuring that anti-cancer treatment drugs are given at the optimum dose for each individual patient.

Ryan wasn’t expected to survive for five years after his diagnosis, but through access to various targeted therapy treatments, drug trials and the SA Precision Dosing Program – as well as a fiercely determined mindset – Ryan was able to create memories with his young family for seven years.

Sadly, Ryan passed away in October last year, but his incredible legacy lives on.

Through the Ryan Hodges Fund, family, friends, and supporters are continuing Ryan’s amazing work and helping to achieve his goals for precision dosing.  

Ryan’s first aim was to fund a scholarship to support Clinical Pharmacologist Dr Madelé van Dyk and her precision dosing research team at Flinders. In June 2021, the first recipient of the Ryan Hodges Scholarship in Precision Dosing was announced.

Recently, another of Ryan’s dreams came true when renowned precision dosing expert, Professor Gerd Mikus, arrived from Germany to work with the precision dosing research team.

Unfortunately, Prof Mikus never had a chance to meet Ryan, but he has learned about Ryan and his determination to make targeted therapies available to more people.

“I’ve discovered that Ryan was a very dedicated and committed person. I’m really sad that I never met Ryan because I’m also very committed and dedicated to this type of research, which I’ve been doing for so many years now,” Prof Mikus said.

“I’ve been fortunate enough to meet Ryan’s wife, Helen, and I’m very impressed with her. I think she can help to continue Ryan’s legacy.”

Prof Mikus is a physicist and physician, specialising in clinical pharmacology. For 25 years, he has been focused on individualising patient treatment in a variety of illnesses and diseases.

Prof Mikus first met Dr van Dyk when she was a student in 2013. Now, he has joined her team, analysing the benefits of personalised dosing compared with standard dosing in routine cancer care.

“This is a great opportunity for me to continue this work and pass on all my experience to the next generation,” Prof Mikus said.

“We do flat dosing – not just in cancer but in most diseases– and in my opinion, it’s totally wrong and we have to individualise dosing in general, especially in patients with cancer.

“The ultimate goal would be to change the attitude about how we treat cancer. Now, we get a pack of tablets for all treatment of cancer, which has the same strength dose. I would like to have an individualised dose for each patient.

“We need to change the whole system of the health industry, which is a very big task, but if you don’t challenge, you will never achieve anything.

“We can do better, and we must do better for people with cancer.”

Prof Mikus, who completed his post-doctoral research in Adelaide 30 years ago, has spent time at Flinders and is helping to fast-track and build capacity of the precision dosing research team, who he believes are making good progress.

“It’s not just one thing you have to change. You have to understand how these drugs work and the individual aspect of each patient, this has to come together and you need quite a big team to do that and cover off all aspects. You need a lot of people and that’s why funding and the efforts of people like Ryan and Helen are so important.”

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