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MD, School of Pharmacy, UNC-Chapel Hill, Molecular Therapeutics

School of Pharmacy
UNC-Chapel Hill
Molecular Therapeutics

Area of interest

Dr. Watkins studies the molecular basis for interpatient differences in the disposition of drugs. He is particularly interested in the major drug metabolizing enzyme termed CYP3A4 and the major drug tranporter, P-glycoprotein. CYP3A4 and P-glycoprotein appear to be major determinants of the disposition of many drugs used to treat cancer, such as taxotere, taxol and etoposide. The field of oncology has been a major focus of Dr. Watkins research since the drugs used in this field generally have narrow therapeutic windows. His research therefore has direct application to clinical oncology. In recent years, he has focused his interests on the roles of CYP3A4 and P-glycoprotein in limiting oral absorption of drugs. This research has direct implications concerning oral administration of cancer drugs that currently must be administered intravenously.

Recent accomplishements/honors: In the last year, the Watkins lab has had several significant accomplishments that have resulted in publications. He collaborated on studies that documented genetic variation in the major single metabolic pathway for drugs, including cancer chemotherapies (1). His lab also identified a novel pathway for the metabolism of sirolimus, a medication which may have a role in treated some cancers (2). His laboratory also reported the first example of a medication which induces liver but not intestinal enzymes in man (3). Finally, he and collaborators identified an important role for growth hormone in regulating the activity of a major human liver drug metabolizing enzyme (4). These studies further understanding of the basis for interpatient differences int eh ability to metabolize drugs, including drugs used in cancer patients. In terms of recent honors, Dr. Watkins has received a MERIT award from the National Institutes of Health (R37) for his research.

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