Chris O’Brien Lifehouse is one of the few hospitals in Australia where patients can access compounded chemotherapy and clinical trial drugs, fresh from the onsite pharmacy lab.
While many hospitals source pharmaceuticals from third-party compounders, Lifehouse has a dedicated team of over 20 pharmacists and technicians who dispense and prepare medications daily. These range from mainstream cancer treatments to rare drugs and clinical trials.
Pharmacy Director Michael Soriano says staff can adjust chemotherapy dosages to reflect changes in the patient’s health, enabling them to provide a more personalised treatment.
“We have everything that the patient would need, all under one roof,” he says, “from treatment, to research, to care. Because all the pharmacists here are trained in oncology, you can be guaranteed that people checking your drugs are trained in that specific area.”
As cancer specialists, Lifehouse pharmacists regularly handle drugs that other pharmacists would only encounter rarely. Their proximity to patients means they receive direct feedback about the treatments, which allows them to report and offer solutions for adverse effects.
It is this culture of research and innovation that motivated Michael to join Chris O’Brien Lifehouse in December 2018. He was struck by the way Lifehouse staff mentor one another to build collective expertise, and their commitment to passing their knowledge on to newcomers in their field. Additionally, the hospital’s university relationships bring in students and practitioners with fresh insights and exposure to cutting-edge technology.
Collaborating with doctors and nurses enables the pharmacy team to access and contribute to Lifehouse’s ever-growing repertoire of clinical trials. One of the most rewarding aspects of Michael’s work is watching trial drugs become standard treatments with commercial names rather than numerical codes. His department currently has around 30 clinical trials in the pipeline, and more than 50 already in motion.
“Those clinical trials give you a different perspective on the conditions they are trying to treat,” he says. “Are there better options for patients? There’s a lot happening.”
Participating in clinical trials along with compounding and distributing medication is challenging work. In his spare time, Michael recharges outdoors by paddle boarding, skate boarding, playing tennis and Instagramming his cavalier cross puppy. This keeps his mind strong so his pharmacy team can continue to support the hospital in delivering life-changing treatment.
“I just have that really good feeling of pride working here,” he says. “My first impression was that everyone was compassionate and worked as a team. It’s a small hospital so everyone knows everyone. The building is very modern, not like a very traditional hospital. It is designed to be a healing place.”