EVERYONE who volunteers to take part in clinical research plays a vital role in helping doctors and scientists to develop new treatments for diseases.
To mark International Clinical Trials Day, on Friday 19 May the research and development (R&D) team at Basildon University Hospital will run an information stand in main reception from 9am to 3pm, highlighting this valuable work and the types of trials they conduct, and encouraging more people to get involved.
Patients and visitors can also find out more about research by completing inquiry cards and posting them into new, locked letter boxes around Basildon Hospital, in main reception, the restaurant, outpatients and the Essex
Cardiothoracic Centre reception and also main outpatients at Orsett Hospital.
The R & D team are currently running 130 different studies, and last year recruited over 2,300 volunteers to take part in research covering a range of specialties, for example, diabetes, renal, cardiology, cancer, and rheumatology.
Discovering more about the causes and possible treatment of motor neurone disease (MND) is among the research projects that Basildon Hospital patients are helping with MND, also known as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), occurs when motor neurone nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord stop working properly. Motor neurones control muscle activity, such as walking, gripping, speaking, swallowing and breathing.
Dr Andrea Malaspina, consultant neurologist at Basildon Hospital, is one of the lead researchers on a collaborative study called ALS Biomarkers study.
He explained: “We are trying to find out more about the mechanisms that make key cells, like motor neurones, die by studying signals that can be recovered from body fluids.
“We will then aim to use these “biomarkers” to predict the speed of progression of the disease and understand whether a new therapy may or may not be effective.”
Over 400 volunteers at Basildon University Hospital are helping with this research; about 150 of them have MND and the rest are healthy people who act as controls.
Janet McNeice, aged 61, was diagnosed with MND in 2013 and is under the care of Dr Malaspina. She had to leave her retail job earlier this year, and has difficulty with walking and balance.
She said: “I try to be positive but I have low days if I am in a lot of pain. Having a shower and getting dressed takes a long time and makes me so tired. I set myself a goal of doing two jobs every day, but if someone asks me to go out, I put them off to the next day.
“Dr Malaspina is so good, and when he asked if I would take part in a research trial I agreed. It involved taking medication, or a placebo – we were not told which we were on –
and having regular tests.
“I would recommend that other people take part in trials to help doctors find answers to diseases. If we don’t try things, we’ll never get anywhere.”
Ashley Solieri, associate director of research, said: “We are very grateful to all the patients who volunteer to take part in clinical trials. As well as helping to find treatments for the future, there is evidence that organisations that carry out quality research achieve improved results for patients and attract high quality staff.”