Topics:ACTA Members

Neuroscience Trials Australia (NTA) has ensured that trials conducted by the group can embedded into routine practice—a conscious decision that CEO Dr Tina Soulis says is one of the reasons their clinical trials are continuing despite a national ‘pause’ on much medical research.

STOP-MSU trial. Image courtesy of The Melbourne Brain Centre

STOP-MSU – ambulance

One such trial is the Stopping haemorrhage with Tranexamic acid for hyperacute Onset Presentation including Mobile Stroke Units study (STOP-MSU).

The Phase IIa randomised controlled trial sends specialist ambulances equipped with CT scanners and five experts to emergency cases of suspected stroke. The study aims to identify whether or not early treatment has a measurable impact on patient outcomes. Time is critical in stroke treatment and STOP-MSU aims to address that by treating patients as soon as paramedics arrive, diagnosing patients inside the ambulance and sending that information to the hospital ahead of patient arrival. Patients are involved in a clinical trial by the time they have contact with first-responders.

Dr Tina Soulis, CEO of Neuroscience Trials Australia

“This is a great story about collaboration between Ambulance Australia, the hospitals, neurologists, paramedics, nurses, CT technicians, and the CT coordinators to see if we can roll this out in routine practice,” said Dr Soulis, “This wouldn’t be possible without everyone’s input.”

Australia was the third country in the world to get these specialist ambulances, and Victoria was the first state in Australia.

Collaboration in the time of COVID-19

NTA is -for the most part- running business as usual, with a few adjustments. Firstly, they are witnessing a rush of clients wanting to submit applications for trials, in readiness for when clinical trial sites reopen.

“This is a great opportunity for Australia to show the world from a regulatory, research and development and tax perspective. All of this, plus the flattening of the COVID-19 curve, means that this is a great opportunity as a safe haven to start projects,” said Dr Soulis.

By using this time to slow down and focus on administrative elements of clinical trials, such as scoping, preparing HREC submissions, negotiating budgets with sites, and collecting essential documentation, NTA is getting its clients to a point where clinical trials can begin almost immediately in the country’s recovery from COVID-19. Dr Soulis said the continuity of research and that clinical trials will probably be more important once this is all over.

“We’re seeing a real emergence and roll-out of telehealth. The real benefit of that is that we now can have access to every patient regardless of whether they live in the Queensland outback or Melbourne CBD. And that’s a great thing for clinical trials, and for the patients that we serve,” said Dr Soulis.

Public awareness

The NTA team is understandably excited about the higher profile of clinical research in the public domain. Patient awareness of clinical trials should be at an all time high, and NTA plans to be supporting that.

“Just noticing conversations with my family alone – I talk about work a lot and it feels as though the penny has finally dropped. I think we should be able to harness that for other applications now. Even the education of the Australian Community; ‘What is a clinical trial, and why does it take so long?’,” said Mary Hayek, Project Manager of Neuroscience Trials Australia.