BRINGING OUT THE BEST
Clinical trials bring patients the latest and the best treatments – and doctors the opportunity to learn, lead and enhance patient care.
Macquarie University Health Science Centre (MQ Health) currently participates in more than 60 clinical trials over four major areas of health: cancer, cardiology, neurology and respiratory medicine. The Clinical Trials Unit has doubled in size over the past two years, and will double again in the next two years. It tests both medical drugs and devices, making it somewhat unique in Australia.
Macquarie University is a growing leader in making available to patients the latest and most promising medical treatments. Immunotherapy trials for treating cancer have become one of the Hospital’s biggest and most important.
“What immunotherapies aim to do is switch the immune system back on at the microscopic level where cancer cells and immune cells interact,” said Professor Howard Gurney, Director of Clinical Trials in the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences at Macquarie University.
“The big change is that this approach doesn’t target the cancer. Instead, it targets the immune cells and tries to activate them to block the cancer. So far it is showing great promise. In some patients, we are seeing cancers disappear.
“We have grown so quickly in part because we have a reputable trials unit set up. We recruit well and we have good data quality, so we keep getting asked to do more. It’s definitely an exciting place to be in terms of medical research.”
IF YOU’RE A PATIENT, ASK YOUR DOCTOR ABOUT PARTICIPATING IN A CLINICAL TRIAL
Patients and doctors can shy away from participating in clinical trials. But they should think again, says Professor Howard Gurney of Macquarie University Hospital.
“There is a perception amongst patients that clinical trials are ‘experimental’ – in the sense that they carry risk because they are ‘unproven’,” said Professor Gurney.
“However, the opposite is true. Participating in a clinical trial will bring you the best standard of care. Patients who participate in clinical trials undergo additional testing and monitoring, which can have positive outcomes on their long-term health.
“More importantly, patients get the latest and the best treatment – and they get it now, years ahead of the therapy coming onto the market.”
In the long and convoluted process from testing a biological hypothesis in a laboratory, to getting a drug to market, clinical trials are the final hurdle. This means that they have undergone significant testing, and their probability of success is almost certainly guaranteed.
AS A HOSPTAL, WE ARE BETTER AT WHAT WE DO BECAUSE OF OUR CLINICAL TRIALS
Macquarie University Hospital is a growing teaching hospital – the first of its kind in the private hospital sector in Australia.
As a teaching hospital, we are required to have a clinical trials unit.
“Having a trial unit raises the expertise of the entire hospital,” said Professor Gurney. “A strong trial unit at a hospital attracts the best staff, engages more doctors in keeping abreast of the latest medical advances, and is able to offer its patients the latest and best standard of care.”
IF YOU’RE A DOCTOR, WHY SHOULD YOU CONSIDER PARTICIPATING IN CLINICAL TRIALS?
“Participating in a medical trial makes you an expert,” said Professor Gurney. “You get access to the latest treatments eight years before others in your field.
“You become an expert, and you become a key opinion leader. It’s a fantastic chance to learn, to lead and to serve your patients better.”
Do clinical trials mean ‘more work’ – a concern that busy doctors have?
Well, yes, they do because you are required to become an ‘investigator’ on the trial, which means you have to be involved. However, the long-term benefits to your knowledge base and expertise, and ultimately to your patients, probably outweigh the time investment up front.
And the Clinical Trials Unit at Macquarie University Hospital takes much of the administrative burden from doctors in handling some of the application, compliance and data handling work.