Clinical Trials Day Countdown: Meet Nathan
As part of our countdown to Clinical Trials Day, we're interviewing some of our team members. Follow along here to meet our team and learn about their experiences within clinical research!
Today we're interviewing Nathan Buseman, RN, Research Nurse Coordinator.
1. When did you begin working in clinical research and expand to where you are today?
I started working in clinical research in 2019—my role as research nurse coordinator within the phase 1 oncology research program at the University of Wisconsin-Madison was my entry. I continued this role for over three years at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. In that role, I worked with patients across all oncology disease types: hematologic malignancies and solid tumor diseases. Doctors divide cancer into two main types: solid tumor cancers and cancers in the blood. Cancers in the blood are also called hematological cancers.
Phase 1 oncology trials have unique challenges for the staff working on the studies and the patients participating in them. Phase 1 research studies are first in human studies–they have been tested in a laboratory setting, but the phase 1 portion of a study is the first time the treatment use is observed in humans. There are a lot of visits for safety and pharmacokinetic sample monitoring as we need to know the appropriate dosing level and the side effects. The focus of a phase 1 research study is the participants’ safety and the medication’s tolerability at increasing dose levels.
Phase 1 studies do not focus on the efficacy of the medication as the primary goal; that is a secondary goal, whereas in other phases of research, focus on the effectiveness of the drug or device is typically the primary goal. Most phase 1 oncology research studies use a 3x3 model, meaning that each dose level has three participants enrolled to assess safety and tolerability in a small number of patients. The other unique thing with phase 1 studies is that many of them are not disease-specific- meaning that they will study the medication on people with different cancer types to see if it is effective in treating multiple cancers (breast cancer and colon cancer might use the same drug).
2. What made you want to work in clinical research (and/or healthcare)?
Growing up, I was always interested in science and knew I wanted to do something related to science for my career. With science, I seek to find and have definitive answers and reasons why something worked or didn’t work. I am left-brained, so I am not very creative and enjoy absolute solutions. Due to this enthusiasm for science, Mythbusters was one of my favorite shows growing up. As Adam Savage famously said on the show, “The difference between screwing around and science is writing it down.”
I got my bachelor’s degree in nursing at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. After working as an inpatient nurse for over three years, I decided it was time to change. I had always believed that working in research would be something I would enjoy. Research interests me because it allows me to be on the cutting edge of science and to provide patients with new treatment options that they otherwise would not have available. The phase 1 oncology research program that I worked in previously allowed me to be a part of the newest oncology treatments while still getting to work with patients. That allowed me to utilize science daily and help people simultaneously.
3. What is an example of a story/article that inspires you about doing clinical research?
When I am working on a study and see a small number of patients receiving benefits from treatment, that is amazing, but knowing that it can help thousands of patients is truly inspiring. I know this to be true as I have seen it happen with a medication I worked on in a study that recently received FDA approval. I worked on a treatment for non–small cell lung cancer (NSCLC), which accounts for approximately 85% of all lung cancers. This study focused on a subset of that cancer type, including the KRAS G12C mutation occurring in about 13% of NSCLC patients. This study treatment is now approved to help thousands of suffering patients.
To learn more about the approval of Adagrasib, read here: https://www.esmo.org/oncology-news/fda-grants-accelerated-approval-to-adagrasib-for-kras-g12c-mutated-nsclc