Faculty Profile: Alex Sparreboom, PhD, Professor, Pharmaceutics and Pharmaceutical Chemistry

Alex Sparreboom

Alex Sparreboom, PhD believes the best labs are ones with diverse experiences and interests. Thus, at Ohio State he welcomes many researchers in efforts to find common ground. “We wanted to create an open, collaborative lab structure, so it is run with three people—me, Sharyn Baker and Navjot Pabla,’ he said.  “All three of us have diverse backgrounds and insights. By integrating viewpoints for different people, we can make progress much more rapidly. And we get to do science that none of us could do individually.”

Sparreboom’s research centers on the contribution of solute carriers to chemotherapy-induced toxicity profiles, identifying chemical inhibitors of critical transporters, translating the findings to clinical trials in collaboration with scientists and oncologists, and ultimately improving the long-term outcome of patients with cancer by modulating the therapeutic window of widely-used chemotherapeutics. His research is currently focused on the development of transport modulators that could be used in conjunction with platinum-based drugs and tyrosine-kinase inhibitors, with emphasis on the development of innovative preclinical model systems.

"Our lab meets weekly to discuss initial observations,” he said. “We can collectively come to make decisions on where the studies are going. We are inviting other investigators to our meetings as well, adding critical mass to discovery and ideas. It’s very stimulating, and makes it exciting to come to work.”

Sparreboom received a BSc in Pharmacy from Utrecht University in The Netherlands in 1989, an MSc in Pharmacy from Utrecht University in 1993, and a PhD in Pharmacy from The Netherlands Cancer Institute/Utrecht University in 1996. When in pharmacy school, he discovered an interest in pharmaceutical research. An NIH grant took his study toward kidney cancer. 

One of his collaborative efforts involves his work with Sharyn Baker on sorafenib, a kinase inhibitor used successfully in kidney cancer. Said Sparreboom: “Historically, in cancer treatment, not much attention was paid to side effects. But with precision medicine comes more ways to address toxicity in treatment selection. Sorafenib worked great, but caused damage to the skin. Why? We sought to explore this and developed a strategy to see if there is a mechanism that gets it into skin cells and does damage. We are now trying to develop an intervention strategy/therapy that can prevent side effects.”