As researchers across the country continue to look for possible ways to prevent or cure the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), clinical trials may offer new hope for patients and their families.
UC Health, the region’s academic health system, has partnered with the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine on numerous clinical trials to pinpoint the causes of COVID-19, and possible ways to treat the disease. The UC College of Medicine, where many of UC Health’s physicians teach and do research, is involved in about 1,000 active clinical studies at any given time.
Clinical research is how we expand our scientific understanding of a specific condition and discover safe and effective treatments for myriad healthcare conditions. It is crucial at this time as we do not fully understand COVID-19, and are eagerly searching for the safest and most effective treatment possible. These important studies range from looking to understand the scientific makeup of COVID-19, to finding treatments for COVID-19 related symptoms and to the possible discovery of an effective vaccine.
Leading the efforts to combat COVID-19 for both UC Health and the UC College of Medicine are Brett Kissela, MD, chief of research services at UC Health, chair in the Department of Neurology and Rehabilitation Medicine and associate dean of research at the UC College of Medicine, and Carl Fichtenbaum, MD, associate chair of translation research and professor in the Division of Infectious Diseases in the Department of Internal Medicine at the UC College of Medicine.
Both Dr. Kissela and Dr. Fichtenbaum serve as co-chairs for a special innovations task force at UC Health dedicated specifically to finding ways to provide hope to the region through clinical research.
“We are participating in national and international efforts to solve this problem,” said Dr. Kissela. “Our community should be proud that we have a great academic health system that continues to click on all cylinders to find answers.”
Launching New Clinical Trials and Risks
The process of launching a clinical trial can be complicated.
There are a number of regulatory steps to make sure researchers follow all of the appropriate rules and regulations set forth by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
It’s crucial the trials are safe for patients to participate in without risking their health even further.
Although the process is challenging, UC Health has moved quickly during the era of COVID-19 thanks to an all-hands-on-deck approach where our experts prioritize anything related to COVID-19 for research to go quickly.
A robust clinical trial program in Cincinnati, or any city for that matter, means the community has access to new and novel treatments and therapies that other healthcare systems don’t offer. Clinical trials also inform the future of clinical care, and by offering impactful research in Cincinnati, it allows our community to be directly involved in the improvement of clinical care
It may seem like a risk to participate in a clinical trial, but researchers take every precaution to protect patients. They only administer clinical trials that are safe, even if they aren’t effective to cure the disease it’s used for. If a clinical trial wouldn’t be safe for even their own family members, then our researchers wouldn’t use it; but the goal is that each trial will help them learn what the next best treatment option is.
UC Health Clinical Trial Outcomes
UC Health has impacted many lives through successful clinical trials. Trisha Wise-Draper, MD, PhD, head and neck subspecialist at the UC Cancer Center and associate professor in the Department of Internal Medicine at the UC College of Medicine, has seen cancer patients make amazing recoveries after participating in clinical trials.
This includes a patient who had an aggressive tongue cancer that eventually spread to her head and neck. Radiation was ineffective, so Dr. Wise-Draper recommended the patient participate in a clinical trial to help treat her cancer. Despite a very poor prognosis, the patient made a stunning recovery, and remains well to this day. Dr. Wise-Draper referred to the patient’s recovery as nothing short of “miraculous.” Clinical trials are able to improve the quality of life for patients suffering from the worst conditions.
One study currently being done at UC Health to treat COVID-19 is called the Scope Trial. UC Health is the first hospital system in the country to try the drug Sirolimus as a treatment for the disease. Sirolimus is usually given to patients who received a transplanted organ to prevent the immune system from rejecting it.
When COVID-19 infects people, the immune system is quickly unregulated and may in fact cause damage in addition to fighting the virus. The goal is that the drug, similar to transplant patients, could be useful for COVID-19 by slowing the immune system down, preventing damage and possibly improving outcomes. This is one of many studies currently underway at UC Health for COVID-19.
Message of Hope for the Community
The most important thing at this point with clinical trials is awareness in the community. People need to know that the UC College of Medicine and UC Health are experts in clinical research in the region. They do this kind of work all the time — not just for COVID-19.
At this point, UC Health has many clinical trials available for members of the community to participate in. Your involvement could lead to a cure for COVID-19 and save lives. Even after a vaccine is discovered for this virus, our researchers will go back to work on other clinical trials for different types of cancer and other life-threatening diseases.
“We are here to help you through a difficult time and to help heal our community. That’s our job,” said Dr. Fichtenbaum. “And so we are here to create new information to have scientific discovery because we truly believe that through science comes hope.”
If you are interested in finding out more about the COVID-19 clinical trials available at UC Health, or if you’d like to participate, please contact UCcovidresearch@uchealth.com or call 513-245-3417.