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Professors John Rasko and P. Joy Ho recognised for ground-breaking work on thalassaemia

Excellence in Clinical Trials Awards

June 2019

Professors John Rasko and P. Joy Ho recognised for ground-breaking work on thalassaemia

Professors John Rasko and P. Joy Ho recognised for ground-breaking work on thalassaemia

Two outstanding clinician-researchers from RPA have been jointly awarded Sydney Local Health District’s Clinical Trial of the Year Award for their ground-breaking work on the genetic blood disorder thalassaemia.

Professor John Rasko AO, the Head of the Department of Cell and Molecular Therapies and Professor P. Jo Ho, Head of the Thalassemia Unit and Director of Research at the Institute of Haematology, were recognised for the Northstar Study.

The Awards were presented by Dr Kerry Chant, NSW Chief Health Officer and Dr Teresa Anderson AM, Chief Executive of Sydney Local Health District at the Clinical Trials Showcase as part of Innovation Week 2019.

The Northstar study aimed to correct the defective gene in patients with transfusion-dependent β-thalassemia. This was done through an advanced technology, transducing the patient's own blood cells with a safe virus carrying the correct gene.

All patients with transfusion-dependent β-thalassemia who participated in the trial reduced or eliminated the need for blood transfusion for up to three and a half years following treatment. The treatment has now moved into the next phase to allow clinical evaluation in a larger number of patients.

The therapy is the first to potentially cure β-thalassemia by correcting the defective gene. This therapy not only improves the health outcome and quality of life of patients with β-thalassemia, it could take off a huge load from the healthcare system as it is a once off treatment. Many patients with β-thalassemia require lifelong regular blood transfusion. Frequent blood transfusion can lead to iron overload, multi-organ damage, and shortened life expectancy.

The Northstar Study was published in the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine.

The Excellence in Clinical Trials Support Award was presented to Kerry Kearins, Senior Clinical Trials Coordinator at the Department of Chemical Pathology, RPA.

Ms Kearins has led the Department of Chemical Pathology’s clinical trial activities for the past two decades. She has participated in more than 100 clinical trials, most of which have been randomised controlled trials. Over that period of time, she has been part of a team managing up to 800 participants per year.

Trials have included high profile multicentre studies such as FOURIER, GAUSS and FIELD, which have been reported in leading journals such as Lancet, Journal of the American Medical Association and New England Journal of Medicine.

She has provided this expertise whilst continuing to act as the nurse in charge of the Cardiovascular Health ambulatory care service. 

The Excellence in Clinical Trials Awards have been established to recognise and celebrate the outstanding achievements of Sydney Local Health District staff in the field of research.

Sydney Local Health District is committed to leading the way in discovering and implementing new treatments and technologies to meet the challenges we face in overcoming disease, reducing health disparities and meeting the needs and expectations of our communities.

There are more than 669 active clinical trials currently across the District. Each is helping to advance clinical practice and save or improve the lives of our patients. These trials are being conducted in more than 71 departments. More than 239 of our staff are principal investigators.

The District undertakes trials of all Phase types, with the majority being Phase II and III. Almost 90 cent are multi-centre trials and two-thirds are international studies.

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