Discovering the best care for kids through clinical trials
May 17, 2022
CHoR patient and her nurse wearing masks

    Discovering the best care for kids through clinical trials

    Our doctors aren’t just providing the best care today–they’re conducting research to uncover the newest techniques and treatments to help kids in the future. One of the ways they do this is through clinical trials.

    What’s a clinical trial?

    A clinical trial is a research study designed to determine if a test or treatment is safe and effective for a specific disease compared to the current best practice. Kids have different body chemistry and biology so it’s important that clinical trials are unique to them, not simply based on what’s worked for adults with similar conditions.

    “Clinical trials are how medicine advances and improves. They allow us to compare old to new and test new drugs and devices,” said Elizabeth Olmsted, associate administrator for research. “One of our medical researchers just completed an RSV study with CHoR patients that decreased the number of shots needed for treatment from six to one. That means fewer trips to the doctor and great news for parents and kids!”

    What kinds of clinical trials are offered at CHoR?

    Clinical trials range from small pilot studies to multi-site studies with other children’s hospitals across the world, in a variety of specialty areas.

    A few of the studies we have going on right now are evaluating:

    • Tolerability of new or different doses of medications, some already in use for adults
    • Various long-term effects of stays in the NICU and PICU
    • Efficacy of vaccine transmittal from mother to child when administered during pregnancy
    • Psychological support to help children manage cancer diagnoses
    • COVID-19 treatments 

    We also have several studies focused on helping children transition from pediatric to adult care. This can be a tricky time filled with physical and psychological changes, and how care is delivered can impact health outcomes.

    What are the risks and benefits of kids participating in clinical trials?

    There is risk with every medical action, including clinical trials, but all clinical studies are reviewed by an Institutional Review Board which adheres to strict federal and institutional laws and policies. Studies and trials involving people, and especially children, have a high degree of ethical and scientific oversight. The safety of the participant is always the most important consideration.

    Participation in a study may give your child access to a treatment that might not otherwise be accessible. It’s not uncommon that children seen by medical specialists–such as the physicians as CHoR–are the same ones who are appropriate to participate in clinical trials. This is because trials are often aimed at finding solutions and improving the lives of people with complex health problems. Clinical trials often need healthy kids to participate too, so test results can be compared.    

    Not only can clinical trials help the current participants, but the research can help thousands of children in the future as well. That’s something to feel good about!

    What questions should parents ask before enrolling their child in a clinical trial?

    If you’re considering enrolling your child in a study, you’ll be given detailed information about potential risks and participation requirements. These must be considered carefully and can range from a bruise from a blood draw, to spending several hours in the Pediatric Research Office getting weighed and measured and participating in other study-specific tests. If you don’t understand any aspects of the risks or requirements associated with the clinical trial, be sure to ask the doctor or research team so you can make an informed decision about what’s best for your child and family.

    How do doctors become involved in research and clinical trials?

    Physicians and PhD researchers are often exposed to research in school or during their residency and begin to envision ways to improve medical care. It’s something they become quite passionate about which leads them to seek a career in a setting that supports clinical research. Researchers go through specific training to learn about the many rules created to protect study participants and typically work under the mentorship of a more senior researcher when starting out.

    As a successful and growing academic research institution, VCU encourages research of all kinds and has the infrastructure and skilled people necessary to administer clinical trials. Our administrative research team provides day-to-day support so our researchers can focus on the science and clinical care. 

    “Being a clinical trial participant is being a partner with the researcher, which is a really cool opportunity for kids,” added Ms. Olmsted. “You may be surprised that this new relationship to medicine and the doctor can change how your child sees their own illness and care.”

    Find out more about the research taking place and the clinical trials available at CHoR.

    Read about Mikey’s participation in a clinical trial at CHoR.

    Discover our Child Health Research Institute

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