At the NIHR Guy’s and St Thomas’ BRC, we regularly host work experience students to help inspire the next generation of biomedical and clinical researchers. One of our students, Lukas, told us about his week in the department, and his favourite experience – learning about clinical trials.
My name is Lukas, I am a GCSE student and I am doing my work experience in the Guy’s and St Thomas’ Research and Development department. I’m interested in science, computer science and maths.
As I started doing my work experience the first thing I learned was about clinical trials. It was my first time hearing about them, but I found it really amazing because of what they can do. Clinical trials are about testing new treatments, sometimes to stop or prevent illnesses that are life threatening for people.
I spent a morning with Deepali Patel, who is the VACIRiSS trial manager. She told me about how patients have to meet exclusion and inclusion criteria before taking part in clinical trial. For example, for some a patient might have to be 18 or over to take part.
Deepali told me about how running a clinical trial is very long process as there is a lot of paper work. She taught me about how patients volunteer to join a clinical trial. At first patients get an information sheet which they need to read through to get brief idea of what the clinical trial is and what it’s trying to achieve. If a patient joins a trial and wants to withdraw at any time, that is possible, but some of their information will be kept for safety reasons.
I learned about the different types of clinical trials that there are. Phase 1 trials are when a treatment hasn’t been used in people yet, and the trial finds out whether it is safe. It might sound dangerous but the doses that get used are really small. When the treatment is given to the patient, they are looked after by nurses and doctors. Blood tests are taken regularly for first 24 hours to see how the patient is doing.
In phase 2 trials, researchers find out more about how a treatment works. Therefore they have more patients taking part in the trial – 10’s and sometimes over 100 people. Phase 3 trials involve a lot of people – up to thousands. These trials aim to find out whether a treatment is better than the current treatment, and if it is, the treatment will be licensed. Phase 4 trials aim to find out more about how the treatment works in patients.
I think clinical trials will help out a lot in the future, for instance by finding treatments for incurable illness which will allow people to live longer. I think it’s really impressive that people sign up for a trial because they want to help scientists.
I spent an afternoon with Lauren Arnold, who is an assistant clinical trial manager. She told me about a clinical trial going on which is called HAVEN. This is a trial that stands out because it is testing a drug that already has been licensed to treat lupus and it is a phase 4 trial. It has been set up to try and treat a rare condition called ANCA vasculitis. Vasculitis is when your blood vessels start to swell.
I think clinical trials are very good because they are a way to discover new medicine that will help a lot of people in the future.
Thank you to Lauren Arnold and Deepali Patel for giving me good explanation of what clinical trials are and how they work.