Professor’s clinical trials put Manitoba on map

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Manitoba's role in an international study that is helping to change the way COVID-19 patients are treated in hospital could mean quicker and more frequent clinical trials post-pandemic.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 06/08/2021 (375 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Manitoba’s role in an international study that is helping to change the way COVID-19 patients are treated in hospital could mean quicker and more frequent clinical trials post-pandemic.

The University of Manitoba’s Dr. Ryan Zarychanski led two of three large trial groups that pooled their data and found out the blood-thinner heparin can safely treat moderately ill COVID-19 patients. By the time the study’s final results were published Wednesday, they had already been put into practice at the U.K.’s National Health Service and were being adopted by doctors in Manitoba and elsewhere.

Manitoba has a “rich history” of science and lab research, and now local researchers are starting to be recognized for their clinical trial expertise, Zarychanski said.

Dr. Ryan Zarychanski (Jason Halstead / Winnipeg Free Press files)

“We do have mounting expertise, and I think these trials have helped to showcase what we have in our province. With that, I expect we’ll attract more physicians to come and train in clinical trial methods.”

The work was completed in a year with a first-of-its-kind level of collaboration: the research had more than 100 authors and involved patients from more than 300 hospitals in nine countries. A large randomized clinical trial such as this one would typically take at least five years, Zarychanski said, and many similar trials are never completed or don’t produce clear results.

“The trials that we’ve conducted, the trials that I’ve led and the methods that we’ve created have really put Manitoba on the map of clinical trials around the world for our ability to lead them and to finish them and to inform practice in general,” Zarychanski said.

He wants to see clinical trials conducted daily as part of regular medical care. He said for too long there’s been a separation between research and everyday health care. The chasm started to close during this pandemic, when health-care workers needed to learn about a new virus as they treated patients, and he hopes the work he’s done will help bridge the gap.

“We’re starting to nibble at the edges of developing a learning health system where research is part of everyday clinical care, but we have a long way to go,” he said.

He and his team have conducted several clinical trials during the pandemic to look into how effective different medications would be in COVID-19 treatment, and their work is ongoing: they’re studying the use of the same blood-thinner, heparin, in non-COVID-19 patients and conducting other research into non-COVID-related pneumonia and on how to reduce bleeding during major surgeries.

Zarychanski said his sense of responsibility to patients and their families kept him motivated, even as he juggled research and working in COVID wards over the past year.

“I feel a sense of responsibility that we can do better, and we have to do better, and we do better by conducting clinical trials. I know we can do better by embedding those clinical trials into clinical care and erasing that chasm that exists between those two entities.”

katie.may@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @thatkatiemay

Katie May

Katie May
Reporter

Katie May is a general-assignment reporter for the Free Press.

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