Clinical research studies are a key tool for advancing medical knowledge and patient care, and may improve how disease is diagnosed, treated and prevented.

Virginia Mason is currently home to more than 100 clinical studies that give patients in nearly every clinical department a chance to participate in research and access new treatments.

Making these studies successful requires a highly coordinated effort between physicians and the study coordinators, research assistants and support staff in BRI’s Clinical Research Program.

“Clinical trials provide the link between breakthroughs in basic science and clinical practice by providing access for patients to treatments that are quantitatively and qualitatively superior to what we currently have,” says Dr. Michael Chiorean, Director of the IDB Center of Excellence and Digestive Disease Institute at Virginia MasonMichael Chiorean, MD, program director of Virginia Mason’s Inflammatory Bowel Disease Center of Excellence.

How Studies Are Built

Each study is overseen by a Virginia Mason physician who acts as principal investigator (PI). The PI is in charge of all legal and administrative aspects of their study, and is charged with protecting the rights and safety of every research participant.

To get a study approved and funded, investigators must have a deep understanding of their field and must propose a question that addresses a gap in knowledge or treatment – questions like “Could a treatment that controls inflammation in one autoimmune disease be successful in treating a different autoimmune condition?”

The investigator creates a protocol that outlines each step of the study. For example, the investigator must detail how research participants will be recruited. A successful recruitment strategy respects patient privacy, presents an honest and unbiased explanation of the research, and never pressures anyone to participate. The entire protocol must be approved by an Institutional Review Board (IRB) before the study can begin.

Transforming Care

Lucas McCarthy, MD, Virginia Mason Neuroscience InstituteClinical research studies are a key tool for advancing medical knowledge and patient care, and may improve how disease is diagnosed, treated and prevented. Lucas McCarthy, MD, specializes in treating multiple sclerosis (MS) and was excited to be a part of clinical research when he joined the Virginia Mason Neuroscience Institute in 2015.

Dr. McCarthy and his colleagues are one of the Northwest’s most active MS clinical research groups, currently participating in many clinical studies of investigational drugs. The team is always on the lookout for ways to improve patient care. For instance, when the FDA approved a new therapy, Ocrevus, last March, it was available in the MS clinic very soon after.

“My patients benefit from clinical research by being able to be a part of something bigger, an opportunity to give back to help with future advancements,” Dr. McCarthy says. “Multiple sclerosis is a complex disease with many management options, and the ability to conduct clinical research allows my team to offer our patients the most up-to-date therapies and exciting new treatment options.”

To enroll in the clinical research registry, please visit BRI's Clinical Research webpage.  

Fighting Diseases

March 14, 2018

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