Clinical trials: spearheading research that contributes to public health
International Clinical Trials Day is held on 20 May to commemorate the day that James Lind began his famous trial. The day helps raise awareness of clinical trials and honours clinical research professionals by recognising their contributions to public health and medical progress.
King’s undertakes many clinical trials to spearhead research that contributes to public health and medical progress.
“We have both the opportunity and the duty to use science to develop cutting-edge treatments and therapies”, said Professor Sir Robert Lechler, Provost/Senior Vice President (Health).
“We are also in the unique position of being able to use our research to improve life for the significant numbers of people who have both mental and physical health problems.”
Some examples of clinical trials undertaken in the Faculty of Life Sciences & Medicine include:
Eating peanut early reduces the risk of allergy
The early introduction of peanut to the diets of infants at high-risk of developing peanut allergy significantly reduces the risk of peanut allergy until 6 years of age, even if they stop eating peanut around the age of five, according to a new study led by King’s College London.
Published in the New England Journal of Medicine, the LEAP-On study followed on from the LEAP (Learning Early About Peanut Allergy) study, both led by Professor Gideon Lack Head of Department of Paediatric Allergy, King’s College London and Head of the Children’s Allergy Service at Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust, found that the majority of infants at high-risk of developing peanut allergy are protected from peanut allergy at age 5 years if they eat peanut frequently, starting within the first 11 months of life.
Talking of the study, Professor Lack said: “The aim of our study (a randomized trial) was to find out whether infants who had consumed peanut in the LEAP study would remain protected against peanut allergy after they stopped eating peanut for 12 months. LEAP-On clearly demonstrates that the majority of infants did in fact remain protected and that the protection was long-lasting,” he said.
Finding a treatment for Type 1 diabetes
In 2016, the search for a treatment for Type 1 diabetes (T1D) - which affects over 400,000 people in the UK – was stepped up with the start of a new phase one clinical trial at Guy’s Hospital in London.
The new immunotherapy treatment, called MultiPepT1De, was developed to target the autoimmune attack that leads to the development of Type 1 diabetes.
Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease in which cells in the pancreas that make insulin are killed by the immune system. The new therapy, MultiPepT1De, will use fragments of proteins, known as peptides, in an effort to stop this process by ‘switching off’ the specific autoimmune attack, and hopefully preventing further destruction of the pancreatic cells.
In the autumn of 2016, MultiPepT1De was trialled on 24 people with Type 1 diabetes. The trial is ongoing and the study team is hopeful of positive results that build upon their previous findings showing that the first generation of MultiPepT1De, called MonoPepT1De, is safe and well tolerated, with some evidence of positive effects in T1D patients.
World first clinical trial improves the lives of people living with long-term neurological conditions
A world-first study to find out whether patients with serious neurological conditions would see an improvement in their symptoms as a result of earlier intervention by palliative care teams is being led by a team from the Faculty’s Cicely Saunders Institute.
Now in its second year, the trial has been well received and has recruited 273 patients and 181 caregivers, making it the largest ever palliative care trial for patients with neurological conditions.
The study is assessing the effectiveness of palliative care interventions in patients with long-term neurological conditions, which affects more than 10 million people in the UK.
This is the first time in the world that the effectiveness of palliative care for patients with long-term neurological conditions has been properly trialled. It is hoped that, if care of this kind proves effective, that it could radically transform the way in which patients with these conditions are treated.
In addition, the research will discover much more about the needs and concerns of people affected by long term neurological conditions such as Parkinson’s disease, Multiple Sclerosis and Motor Neurone Disease.
Spearheading leukaemia research
Acute promyelocytic leukaemia (APL), affects around 5% of the 2,500 patients diagnosed in Britain each year with acute myeloid leukaemia (AML), according to MacMillan Cancer Support.
Such leukaemias affect the body’s ability to produce blood cells, with symptoms including anaemia and increased incidence of infection. APL specifically can be a particularly aggressive form of leukaemia, with a high risk of fatal bleeding.
Thankfully, APL is highly treatable. King’s leads the pack with its expert knowledge of how APL can be diagnosed, tackled and prevented from reoccurring.
The effects of recent research in the field are impressive: the percentage of APL patients surviving five years after treatment on clinical trials has risen from 56% in 1990 to over 90% in 2013.
Researchers at King’s have been at the forefront of understanding the molecular mechanics of the disease for close to 30 years, contributing to improved survival.