Benedetta Sallustio

Benedetta Sallustio

School of Biomedicine

Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences

Eligible to supervise Masters and PhD - email supervisor to discuss availability.

Professor Betty Sallustio
Position: Principal Medical Scientist
Group: Basil Hetzel Institute for Translational Health Research
Department: Clinical Pharmacology

Professor Sallustio is Principal Medical Scientist in the Department of Clinical Pharmacology at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, where she manages the Therapeutic Drug Monitoring service. She is also Affiliate Professor in the Discipline of Pharmacology at Adelaide University, and has research interests in pharmacogenomics of renal transplantation, the clinical pharmacology of myocardial metabolic agents, and the role of UGTs in bioactivation of drugs.

Professor Sallustio is a long-standing member of the Australasian Society of Clinical and Experimental Pharmacologists and Toxicologists, and currently serves as co-chair of its Therapeutic Drug Monitoring working group. She is a Fellow of the Faculty of Science of the Royal College of Pathologists of Australia and is also the secretary of the Special Drugs Working Party of the Australasian Association of Clinical Biochemists.

Our Research Group

Professor Sallustio leads the Clinical Pharmacology Unit based at the Basil Hetzel Institute for Translational Health Research. The Basil Hetzel Institute for Translational Health Research is part of The Queen Elizabeth Hospital, and researchers work closely with the hospital’s clinical divisions, and have a focus on translational health research, an innovative ‘bench to bedside’ approach in which scientific discoveries can be quickly translated into improved patient care and treatment. The institute offers a range of postgraduate and honours training opportunities each year for PhD, Masters and Honours students.

The Clinical Pharmacology Unit is affiliated with the Discipline of Pharmacology of the University of Adelaide. It provides a clinical therapeutic drug monitoring service coupled with an active research program in the areas of heart disease, kidney transplantation and cancer.

Research Focus

Professor Sallustio’s research interests include drug biotransformation and transport, particularly understanding how inter-individual differences in these processes, either genetic or environmental, impact on drug toxicity and clinical efficacy. She has pursued three main arms of research: i) the role of biotransformation in enhancing drug toxicity, particularly intracellular protein and genetic damage; ii) applying an understanding of variability in the biotransformation and cellular transport of immunosuppressants to improving clinical outcomes in renal transplant recipients; and iii) understanding the role of energetics in heart disease and cancer. This work has been supported by major competitive funding from the National Heart Foundation, the Anti Cancer Foundation, the National Health and Medical Research Council, Cancer Council SA, and the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation.

Current Projects

Metabolic Treatments for Heart Disease and Cancer

Altered cellular energy metabolism is an underlying feature of both heart disease and cancer. In heart disease, maladaptive changes in energy utilisation and storage contribute to a decline in myocardial function and structural remodelling. In cancer cells, changes in energy utilisation allow increased cell survival, replication and metastasis. In addition, a number of cancer chemotherapy agents cause myocardial damage. Therefore, it is possible that myocardial metabolic agents designed for treatment of heart disease, may also be useful adjunct therapy in cancer. PhD and Honours projects are available in two broad research areas:
1. Investigating the efficacy of new myocardial metabolic agents in the treatment of heart failure and ischaemic heart disease.
2. Developing new therapies for chemotherapy-induced myocardial toxicity in cancer patients

Individualising Transplantation Therapy

The success of kidney transplantation depends largely on preventing rejection of the new organ, using a combination of immunosuppressant drugs. These drugs have narrow safety margins and can cause renal, gastrointestinal or haematological toxicity. Due to significant variability in their elimination from the body, doses are currently individualised by maintaining their concentrations in blood within narrow therapeutic ranges. Despite this, rejection and toxicity still occur. Our research focuses on minimising the risk of rejection and damage to the transplanted organ by: understanding immunosuppressant distribution within blood and hence lymphocytes (the mediators of rejection); and developing novel analytical methods to improve monitoring immunosuppressant concentrations in transplant recipients.

1. Honours Project
Tacrolimus is a drug that is used for immunosuppression following renal transplantation. However, due to its complex pharmacology, concentrations need to be monitored to individualise dosing and minimise both the risk of kidney rejection and tacrolimus-induced toxicity. Immediately following transplantation, whole blood tacrolimus concentrations are monitored daily, with the frequency slowly decreased to every 1-2 months by the third month post-transplant. This intensive schedule can be quite onerous, particularly for patients from regional and remote communities, who often have limited access to clinical facilities. Microsampling of dried blood spots may provide a novel and more convenient means of monitoring tacrolimus concentrations as it can be performed by the patient using a fingerprick device to spot capillary blood onto a paper disc which can be sent by mail for analysis. However, the use of these dried blood spots for tacrolimus concentrations has not yet been validated for clinical application. This project will investigate the feasibility of adapting the current analytical assay for measuring tacrolimus concentrations in venous blood samples to using dried blood spots.

2. PhD/Honours Project
With the ongoing advances in transplantation medicine, increasing numbers of female transplant recipients are choosing to become pregnant. Despite live birth rates similar to the general population, pregnancy in kidney transplant recipients carries significantly increased risks to both mother and baby. This project aims to investigate how pregnancy alters the pharmacokinetics of immunosuppressants in renal transplant recipients, and to develop biomarkers that may be used in conjunction with standard monitoring to minimise the risk of nephrotoxicity and graft loss during pregnancy.

Research Funding (last 5 years)
Year Amount Funding Body, Chief Investigators, Project Title

2012 - 2013

$130,000 National Heart Foundation - Grant-in-aid: BC Sallustio, JD Horowitz, JA Kennedy, MP Frenneaux, “Utility of (+)- and (-)-perhexiline as model compounds for the development of new myocardial metabolic agents”.
2014 - 2015 $150,000 Adelaide Research and Innovation, Commercial funding from Heat Metabolics Ltd. BC Sallustio.
2016 $75,000 Cancer SA – Beat Cancer Project: BC Sallustio, A Evdokiou, JD Horowitz, “Prevention of heart damage during anthracycline cancer chemotherapy”.
2017 $302,000 University of Adelaide Equipment Round 2016. AA Somogyi, BC Sallustio, JK Coller, M Hutchinson, D Barratt.
2018-2020 $327,214 NHMRC – Project Grant (APP1145776), BC Sallustio, A Evdokiou, JD Horowitz, “Prevention of heart damage during anthracycline cancer chemotherapy”.

As an affiliate of the Discipline of Pharmacology Professor Sallustio contributes to both undergraduate and postgraduate teaching. She teaches aspects of drug metabolism and personalised medicine in PHARM 3011 - Drug Development and Therapeutics, and supervises both Honours and PhD students enrolled in the discipline.

  • Current Higher Degree by Research Supervision (University of Adelaide)

    Date Role Research Topic Program Degree Type Student Load Student Name
    2021 Co-Supervisor Biological Studies in Coronary Vasomotor Disorders Doctor of Philosophy Doctorate Full Time Mr Alex Minopoulos
    2019 Principal Supervisor Using Pharmacokinetic Principles to Improve the Safety of Tacrolimus in Kidney Transplant Recipients Doctor of Philosophy Doctorate Part Time Miss Mirabel Alonge
  • Past Higher Degree by Research Supervision (University of Adelaide)

    Date Role Research Topic Program Degree Type Student Load Student Name
    2015 - 2019 Co-Supervisor Genetics of Tacrolimus Pharmacokinetics and Kidney Transplant Outcomes Doctor of Philosophy Doctorate Full Time Ms Rong Hu
    2012 - 2017 Principal Supervisor A Pharmacological Approach Towards Myocardial Protection: New Perspectives in Acute and Chronic Cardiac Disease Doctor of Philosophy Doctorate Full Time Dr Cher-Rin Chong
    2011 - 2017 Principal Supervisor Mycophenolic Acid Pharmacokinetics and Clinical Outcomes in Renal Transplantation: Effect of ABCC2 Haplotype Analysis and Distribution into Lymphocytes and Kidney Doctor of Philosophy Doctorate Full Time Mr Zaipul Izwan Md Dom
    2007 - 2013 Principal Supervisor The Stereoselective Pharmacodynamics of the Enantiomers of Perherhexiline Doctor of Philosophy Doctorate Part Time Dr Johnny Licari
    2003 - 2008 Principal Supervisor The Stereoselective Pharmacokinetics of the Enantiomers of Perhexiline in Poor and Extensive Metabolisers of the Cytochrome P450 2D6 Doctor of Philosophy Doctorate Full Time Mr Benjamin Davies
  • Committee Memberships

    Date Role Committee Institution Country
    2015 - ongoing Member Organising Committee, ANZ Therapeutic Drug Monitoring - Australia
    2012 - ongoing Co-Chair ASCEPT-APSA TDM Satellite Meeting, Therapeutic Drug Monitoring Fundamentals and Emerging Trends – Focus on Antimicrobials, School of Pharmacy University of Sydney Australia
    2011 - ongoing Secretary Australasian Association of Clinical Biochemists - Special Drugs Working Party - Australia
    2011 - ongoing Co-Chair Australasian Society of Clinical and Experimental Pharmacologists and Toxicologists - Therapeutic Drug Monitoring Group - Australia
    2009 - 2013 Council International Association of Therapeutic Drug Monitoring and Clinical Toxicology - Australia
    2009 - ongoing Chair Adelaide Pharmacology Group - Australia
    2005 - ongoing Member Australasian Society of Clinical and Experimental Pharmacologists and Toxicologists - Pharmacogenetics Special Interest Group - Australia
    2002 - ongoing Board Member Adelaide Pharmacology Group - Australia
    1994 - ongoing Member Ethics of Human Research Committee – Scientific Review The Queen Elizabeth Hospital Australia
  • Memberships

    Date Role Membership Country
    1992 - ongoing Member International Association for Therapeutic Drug Monitoring and Clinical Toxicology (IATDMCT). Australia
    1990 - 2011 Member International Society for the Study of Xenobiotics (ISSX) Australia
    1989 - ongoing Member South Australian Medical Scientists Association Australia
    1982 - ongoing Member Australasian Society of Clinical and Experimental Pharmacologists and Toxicologists (ASCEPT). Australia

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