Pancreatic enzymes worth a look in diabetes

Wednesday, 26 Jul 2017

In this week’s holy grail feature the limbic spoke to endocrinologist Dr Liza Phillips about how she is using research in cystic fibrosis to inform diabetes management.

Describe the aim of this project in 10 words.

To evaluate a new approach to improving blood sugar control in type 2 diabetes.

What have you discovered in this area so far?

Some years ago, our group evaluated this pancreatic enzyme replacement therapy in a proof of concept study in patients with diabetes associated with cystic fibrosis. We identified a good blood-sugar lowering effect, which we hope to replicate in a broader population.

What aspect of this research excites you the most?

Type 2 diabetes is increasingly common but despite the many advances, optimal blood sugar control remains a challenge.

Exploring new avenues to optimise management is incredibly important and an exciting aspect of my research. I enjoy the teamwork – being able to collaborate with talented researchers and dedicated patients is a real privilege.

What is your Holy Grail – the one thing you’d like to achieve in your research career?

The chronic disease burden of type 2 diabetes is enormous. I would like to make a meaningful impact to improve management options and outcomes in type 2 diabetes.

What is your biggest research hurdle?

Obtaining funding in the current climate is challenging, and I am extremely grateful to Diabetes Australia for funding this project on the impact of pancreatic exocrine insufficiency and pancreatic enzyme replacement therapy on gastric emptying, gut hormone, and glycaemic responses.

 How long before this research impacts patient care?

The current project will be completed by the end of 2017 and if we achieve promising results, we would look to conduct a larger, longer-term trial over the next year or two. Ultimately if we find positive results, the impact on patient care could be seen within the next 3-5 years.

What’s fascinating about type 2 diabetes?

There is still a lot to be done in diabetes research – this area of medicine crosses many disciplines and will inform future preventative and management approaches for this common disease.

As a clinician, the introduction of a number of new medications for type 2 diabetes has broadened the treatment scope and I look forward to evolving management strategies in the years to come.

Who has inspired you and why?

My husband is my inspiration – his balance of intellectual curiosity and creativity embodies the art and science of medicine.

What other interests help create work-life balance for you? 

Spending time with my husband and two children (aged 5 and 8) makes me happy. I ensure I quarantine time to exercise and try and find time to read non-medical/scientific books for pleasure.


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