Medicine chair urges DOM researchers to support clinical trials
Published on Thursday, April 12, 2018
By: Karen Bascom
If the University of Mississippi Medical Center wants to make progress toward a healthier population, we need to dedicate efforts towards clinical trials and research.
That was the take-home message at the Department of Medicine Research Day held April 10 in the Norman C. Nelson Student Union.
The annual event features research presentations from across the department and keynote lecture. Dr. Javed Butler, new professor and chair of medicine, attracted a full audience to his talk, “The need for and importance of imbedding clinical trials in our daily professional lives.”
“Dr. Butler is the epitome of hitting the ground running in all three missions of the department: clinical care, education and scholarship focused on research,” said Dr. Gailen Marshall, professor of medicine and R. Faser Triplett Chair of Allergy and Immunology, in his introduction of the speaker.
Butler, who joined the UMMC faculty in January, framed his talk as a call to “make American trials great again,” reinforcing the importance of this form of research to medical practice.
“The reason that all of us in this room are associated with health care is our belief in improving human existence,” said Butler, the Patrick Lehan Chair of Cardiovascular Research. “If we do not support clinical trials, we fall short of that. We fail.”
Clinical trials, a subset of clinical research, test the safety and efficacy of new medications and interventions. To do this well, clinical trialists need to conduct well-designed studies.
For example, Butler discussed type 2 diabetes, a primary health concern in his new home state. He said that although many of new treatments launched since 2000 were successful in lowering glucose levels, about 70 percent of diabetes patients were still dying of cardiovascular diseases. That’s a problem.
“Our goal should be to increase life expectancy and quality, regardless of glucose control,” Butler said.
The paucity of evidence needed to approve new diabetes drugs just 10 years ago didn’t help. The Food and Drug Administration issued new guidelines calling for more patients and longer follow-up. It wasn’t until 2015 that a trial for a new treatment showed a greater than 30 percent decrease in heart failure-related hospitalizations.
“We would have never known this without clinical trials,” he said.
Prior to Butler’s talk, more than 50 trainees and faculty presented on research conducted in several of the department’s academic divisions, including cardiology, hematology and psychiatry.
Projects like these, whether basic science experiments in laboratory models or clinical data from chart reviews, are crucial to advancing medical discovery. However, Butler reminded researchers that on their own, these studies don’t go far enough.
“You can have the most elegant basic science experiment, but if it doesn’t translate into a clinical trial, it doesn’t help us reach the goal of improving the human existence and health,” Butler said.
Butler used the 2012 Nobel Prize in Chemistry as an example. Butler and colleagues implemented a clinical trial for a heart-failure drug based on the mechanisms described by those researchers. However, the trial failed to show any actual improvement in human subjects.
Butler said that UMMC and other academic medical centers are facing challenges in implementing clinical trials, such as longer trial timelines, decreased participant retention and higher costs. These challenges are leading to a “lost culture of clinical trials in academia,” he said.
“We need to increase clinical and translational research on our campus,” Butler said.
At the end of the talk, Marshall, vice chair for research in the department, presented awards for the top poster presentations of the day. He thanked the coordinators and presenters for their efforts.
“Our researchers have done some outstanding work and I’m very proud of the results,” Marshall said. “Our division is well-represented in breadth of these presentations.
“The department is moving in the right direction and I hope next year is even more fun.”
Poster Presentation Awards:
First place: Dr. Alan Mouton, postdoctoral research fellow in cardiology
Second place: Dr. Doris Hansen, house officer in hematology-oncology
Third place (tie): Dr. Edgar Torres-Fernandez, postdoctoral research fellow in endocrinology; Mark Rushing, medical student
Honorable mention: LáShauntá Glover, researcher, Jackson Heart Study
Medical Student Research Program Oral Presentation Awards:
First place: Thomas Taylor Coleman
Second place: Rachel Yi
Third place: Jacob Stout
Medical Student Research Program Poster Presentation Awards:
First place: Elliot Varney
Second place: Taylor Harvey
Third place: Caleb Martin