Local treatment, major impact
CERA’s partnerships with suburban ophthalmic practices are improving access to clinical trials.
As an active 75-year-old diagnosed with wet age-related macular degeneration, Jill Edwards found it took some time for her to focus on the ball while playing tennis in the days when she was having her regular eye injections to manage the condition.
“It wasn’t that I couldn’t see the ball, I was just misjudging the distance,” Jill says.
When the opportunity came up to participate in a clinical trial for new treatment for wet AMD she jumped at the chance.
Instead of receiving eye injections every few weeks, Jill is trialling a slow-release treatment that is placed inside a device that has been surgically implanted in her eye.
The device needs to be topped up only once or twice per year, saving her from more frequent eye injections.
Jill also says she is no longer experiencing difficulty focusing after her injections.
“Now, with the new treatment, the lack of focus doesn’t seem to be happening,” she says. “I can see straightaway.”
Rather than travelling into East Melbourne, Jill is having her progress monitored at Retina Specialists Victoria in Rowville.
The clinic is part of a network of suburban clinics partnering with CERA in delivering clinical trials in ways that are more convenient for participants.
Senior Research Fellow Associate Professor Sanj Wickremasinghe, who is monitoring Jill’s progress at Rowville, says the network is providing greater access to trials for patients.
“A lot of the patients tend to be older and might not feel confident coming all the way into the city,” he says.
“Or if they have a family member coming in with them, they don’t have to find parking in the city for the day. Many are much more comfortable coming to a local practice.”
During the COVID-19 pandemic suburban visits have resulted in a much smaller number of appointment cancellations.
It has also increased knowledge of clinical trials among clinicians in the area.
Since expanding its footprint to suburban clinics in 2019, the CERA Clinical Trial Research Centre has run trials for a range of conditions, including diabetic macula oedema, another condition that requires regular monitoring.
“Anything that reduces the treatment burden, which is the hope of these new drugs, will be a game-changer for patients,” Dr Wickremasinghe says.