Monday, 23 May 2016

The Australian Clinical Trials Alliance cultivating the clinical trials ecosystem

Last Friday marked International Clinical Trials Day where clinical researchers across Australia and around the world pause to acknowledge vital role of clinical trials in saving lives and advancing medicine.

SPHPM hosted the Australian Clinical Trials Alliance’s (ACTA) Clinical Trials 2016 Breakfast & Award Ceremony and were joined by a number of esteemed guests including the Hon Sussan Ley MP, Minister for Health, Aged Care and Sport.

Head of SPHPM Professor John McNeil warmly welcomed guests including event partners ACTA, Medicines Australia, AusBiotech and Research Australia. Also in attendance at the ceremony were a number of honoured guests including Mr Frank McGuire, Parliamentary Secretary for Medical Research in Victoria, Professor Anne Kelso, CEO of the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) and Mr Wes Cook, Chair of Medicines Australia.

ACTA Chair and SPHPM’s very own Professor John Zalcberg addressed eminent leaders and researchers from the sector gathered to celebrate the ground-breaking achievements of Australian clinical researchers leading globally significant clinical trials.

“Australia is a world-leader in the space of clinical trial networks which is unique internationally. The numbers speak for themselves, the clinical trials networks have conducted over one thousand studies in the past decade, with over a million participants and over 10,000 clinicians working at the coalface of clinical research,” said Professor John Zalcberg.

“The trials we are about to showcase have saved lives, they’ve reduced suffering and they’ve changed standards of care not just in Australia but around the world. They’ve reduced waste and inspired thousands of young clinicians. And because this research is actually embedded in healthcare, it’s helped create a sustainable and self-improving healthcare system.”

The inaugural ACTA Trial of the Year Award recognises and celebrates the outstanding achievements of members who have advanced clinical practice through collaborative, multicentre investigator-driven clinical trials.

“International clinical trials day is a reminder of the central importance of research to healthcare, and to highlight how partnerships between patients, healthcare practitioners and researchers are vital to high quality relevant research,” said Minister Ley.

“Today’s events provides an important acknowledgement of the central role that investigator-initiated trials play in our healthcare systems. We must continue to support trials which ask key questions about our health system, even if these questions challenge current clinical practice methods.”

Two SPHPM affiliated studies were announced as finalists for the ACTA Trial of the Year Award at the ceremony. Professor Zalcberg praised the Air Versus Oxygen in ST-Segment-Elevation Myocardial Infarction (AVOID) study which was a collaboration between Ambulance Victoria and DEPM adjunct researchers.

“The results of the AVOID trials have led to a dramatic change of practice for all care providers of patients with heart attack in Australia and around the world,” said Professor Zalcberg.

The second study which was announced as a finalist was the EPO-TBI study looking at the use of Erythropoietin in ICU patients with Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI). The trial was coordinated by the Australian and New Zealand Intensive Care Research Centre (ANZIC-RC) at SPHPM.

“The EPO-TBI study conducted in 29 intensive care units in seven countries is one of largest ever to be conducted in TBI patients. This is the first trial to show benefit attributable to pharmacologic intervention in this patient population and represents a major step forward in reducing the devastating burden of traumatic brain injury,” said Professor Zalcberg.

The winning trial was a ground-breaking ten-year, Australian-led international trial of more than 1800 pregnant women in 11 countries, led by Professor Jonathan Morris from the Interdisciplinary Maternal Perinatal Australasian Collaborative Trials network and Sydney’s Kolling Institute.

The trial leader, Professor Morris said: “Given the recent increasing evidence of a lifelong risk of adverse outcomes in babies born even slightly prematurely, we felt it was important to determine whether the current treatment, which was resulting in babies being delivered early because of concerns over infection, was in fact supported in evidence.”

The trial’s aim was to improve the outcome in pregnancies when women rupture their membranes early, which occurs in 40 per cent of pre-term deliveries. As a result of the trial, practice at the Monash Medical Centre in Melbourne has changed to no longer recommend delivery for women at and beyond 34 weeks gestation shortly after rupture occurs, rather to monitor the women in the hope of achieving a longer pregnancy.

One thousand such clinical trials commence every year in Australia, as it has become a gold-class destination for trials. The trial networks developed by ACTA have revolutionised the collaborative and multicentre clinical trial landscape.

Head of SPHPM Professor John McNeil concluded the awards ceremony, and congratulated the five finalists and the inaugural winner. From all of us here at SPHPM, we would like to extend our congratulations to SPHPM-affiliated AVOID study investigators and ANZIC-RC EPO-TBI study investigators on being awarded finalists.

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