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From trials to better treatments

CTRC Manager Marios Constantinou, CTRC Head Associate Professor Lyndell Lim and Senior Study Coordinator Thuy Chau.

Our Clinical Trials Research Centre plays a critical role in helping develop new treatments for eye disease – and ensuring they are safe, effective and make a difference for patients.

Behind every new treatment on the road to a cure for eye disease is a robust clinical trial process.

“Clinical trials are critical to get the evidence we need to prove that new drugs and treatments really work, and improve outcomes for patients,’’ says Head of CERA’s Clinical Trials Research Centre (CTRC) Associate Professor Lyndell Lim.

“The research we publish provides important insights for eye care specialists and can lead to new treatment protocols for patients.

“Just last year, two of our studies led to new treatment paradigms for the treatment of patients with uveitis and diabetic macular oedema.’’

In 2019 the CTRC conducted 19 trials with a total of 156 patients at its Melbourne location and another three involving 15 patients through its eye trial network.

“They covered all of the major causes of blindness, in addition to some rarer diseases and ranged from early Phase I to Phase IV clinical trials for drugs and implants.”

Collaboration and partnerships

CTRC partners with organisations such as the Royal Victorian Eye and Ear Hospital, the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Ophthalmologists (RANZCO), the Department of Surgery at the University of Melbourne, Baker IDI, Sydney Eye Hospital and Lions Eye Institute.

It also collaborates with industry partners and international research institutes such as the US National Institutes of Health.

Research success

Researchers from the CTRC published several major papers during 2019, some in partnership with other institutes.

Associate Professor Lim says large multi-centre collaborations enable researchers to run prospective studies which follow participants over a longer period.

One local CTRC study published in The British Journal of Ophthalmology compared the two standard treatments for patients with Diabetic Macular Oedema who were having cataract surgery. It found that both improved vision but that the steroid treatment required fewer patient visits.

Two large multinational studies involving CTRC and funded by the National Institutes of Health were also published. The POINT study showed that injecting steroids into the eye rather than around the eye was more effective for treating macular oedema due to uveitis.

Published in the Journal of American Medical Association, the FAST study looked at two common treatments for non-infectious uveitis and found the cheaper version was as good if not better.

Taking trials into the community

In 2019, CERA’s Clinical Trials Research Centre (CTRC) reached out into the community to expand access to its ground-breaking clinical trial research.

The CTRC, which is located in the Royal Victorian Eye and Ear Hospital, opened its first branch in Rowville to enable local patients to take part in clinical trials without having to travel to the city.

The initiative is part of the Eye Trial Research Network which aims to increase its geographic reach and the range of diseases CTRC can cover.

The CTRC’s researchers partner with private and public ophthalmology clinics to run the trials in network locations.

“We actually send coordinators out to the sites that help with the running of trials,’’ says Lyndell Lim, Head of the CTRC. “It’s going extremely well.’’

CTRC Manager Marios Constantinou says there are now plans to expand the network to other locations and beyond, to give more patients access to innovative treatments.

We have temporarily stopped recruiting patients for new clinical trials – but are providing important continuity for patients who are receiving critical sight-saving treatment as part of existing trials. However, anyone who is interested in registering to get involved in a trial in the future can register online here.


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