Thousands of Irish patients will now have the opportunity to participate in, or benefit from, a wide range of clinical trials as a result of the Health Research Board’s €100 million investment in clinical research infrastructure* over the last decade.
The Health Research Board today showcased some of the research projects and clinical trials which have been made possible thanks to this funding.
Some of the trials involving Irish patients which are about to start or which have already launched include:
• Trials to help prevent second strokes and heart attack after a first stroke episode.
• Stem cell trials to improve blood flow in legs of diabetic patients
• Trials in GP surgeries to reduce inappropriate use of antibiotics for urinary tract infections
• Trials to establish whether giving ‘fresher’ blood versus ‘older blood’ in transfusions make a difference to patients who are admitted to the Intensive Care Unit.
• The first national drug trial in pregnancy, assessing the use of aspirin in low risk women to prevent pregnancy complications.
• Trials in blood cancer to see if new treatments can be combined with existing medication for better outcomes.
• Quality of Life trials exploring ways to improve comfort and the quality of life for individuals with a chronic illness.
Some Principal investigators are available to talk about these studies in more detail.
Speaking at the showcase event, Minister for Health, Leo Varadkar, said: “Every treatment we receive, every tablet we take and every piece of medical advice we get should be based on solid research. This event is all about acknowledging the important work underway in Ireland thanks to the support of the HRB. There’s a fascinating mix of research projects on display here which really brings home the difference that good research can make to individual patients.
“The HRB’s funding has helped to provide new buildings, new networks, and new equipment. Most of all, it’s supporting the people who work in them. It all represents a seachange in our ability to attract new research and new clinical trials to Ireland, and reinforces our international reputation as a health research hub. Research and clinical trials allow health professionals to test innovative therapies, technologies and products, and speed up the pace of scientific discoveries. It all means better results for patients. Ultimately we want any patient who presents for care, and who is suitable to take part in a clinical trial, to have access to the latest treatments available in a safe environment.”
Dr Graham Love, Chief Executive at the Health Research Board said, ‘Research saves lives. International evidence tells us that research-active healthcare systems have better outcomes for patients. So we have built this network of facilities and trials in collaboration with the HSE, health professionals and research community to enable the best researchers and health professionals carry out research that will change people’s lives for the better.’
The impact of the facilities and networks are evident already. For example, Ireland was at the forefront in testing Oncotype DX, a genetic diagnostic that helps women and their doctors determine the best course of individualised treatment in breast cancer and which helps patients avoid unnecessary chemotherapy.
Ireland also led a trial which examined 1,100 babies experiencing growth restriction in the womb. The study changed international guidelines when it found that intervention to prevent serious health complications for a small baby in the womb is only required for those in the bottom 3% from a weight perspective, not the bottom 10% as previously thought. This is improving survival rates and outcomes for small babies, reducing stress among mothers-to-be and ensuring effective use of health service time and resources.
According to Dr Rebecca Cramp, Science and Regulatory Affairs Manager at the Irish Pharmaceutical Healthcare Association; ‘By establishing this clinical research infrastructure the Health Research Board has created the a strong network with the quality and regulatory standards necessary for industry to test their products and services in an audited, highly regulated setting in an efficient way in this highly competitive environment.’
* What does the HRB Clinical Research Infrastructure entail?
• Three HRB Clinical Research Facilities on hospitals grounds in Dublin, Galway and Cork where, to date, more than 10,000 people are participating in clinical trials. These facilities provide the physical space, facilities, expertise and culture needed to support patient-focused research studies and clinical studies aimed at understanding a range of diseases and translating the knowledge obtained through this research work into regulatory approved advances in patient care as fast as possible.
o The Wellcome-HRB CRF in Dublin also houses the HRB Centre for Advanced Medical Imaging (CAMI). This is the only 3 Tesla MRI scanner dedicated to research in Ireland and plays a crucial role in a wide range of studies from breast cancer to dementia.
• Five HRB Clinical Trial Networks in the specialties of Primary Care, Stroke, Cancer* Perinatal Care and Critical Care which will show whether specific interventions work, or indeed don’t work. *This is the cancer clinical trial network funded with the Irish Cancer Society for many years now – the All-Ireland Cooperative Oncology Research Group (ICORG).
• HRB Trials Methodology Research Network which will strengthen the approach taken to trials and the way they are reported in health and social care so they are relevant, accessible and influential for patients, other service users, practitioners, policy makers and the public.
• HRB Clinical Research Coordination Ireland a ‘hub’ which will coordinate Ireland’s involvement in clinical trials, promote our network internationally and increase our capacity to successfully deliver multicentre trials led by Irish or international investigators.