From researcher to research participant

Each year hundreds of clinical trials take place across the precinct, leveraging the connection between researchers and clinicians fostered by the Alfred Research Alliance, and allowing patients to benefit from the latest scientific breakthroughs.

A popular clinical trial this year has been the Baker Institute’s EDCAD-PMS study. The trial aims to improve early detection of coronary artery disease – Australia’s biggest killer – through new screening methods, including a look at our genetic make-up. And it’s encouraging precinct collaboration of a different kind.

Monash University’s Head of Immunology, Professor David Tarlinton, swapped roles from researcher to research participant when he took part in the Baker Institute’s heart disease prevention research to better understand his own risk, given significant family history. Now he’s encouraging others at the precinct to do the same.

Heart disease killed David’s grandfather and led to a triple bypass in his father before he was 60.

As a university scientist, and with such a strong family history of coronary heart disease, David said he felt a personal and professional responsibility to take part in the Baker Institute research.

“I’ve always worked in medical research myself, although on the laboratory side, not in humans. So, I looked at this as an opportunity to do something that could be good for me, as well as being good for building knowledge to help others. It was something I saw as mutually beneficial,” he said.

“My family history did make me think about my heart disease risk, but I’d never put myself in a high-risk category because I’m not overweight and I felt like I was relatively healthy. But what this study showed, through a series of rigorous testing, was that I wasn’t as low risk as I thought.

“That was my key takeaway from all of this – don’t diagnose yourself! Go to a professional for a check-up, particularly if you have any risk factors, and a family history, your genetics, is a big risk factor.

“You think you are going along just fine, but maybe you’re not. Prevention is better than the cure, because there is no cure in many cases.”

David’s testing showed he had moderate cholesterol levels, and detected calcium deposits in his arteries. He is continuing preventative medication introduced as part of the trial to address this.

“The trial was very informative about my heart condition, my risks, how to minimise them and the importance of monitoring my heart health,” he said.

The Baker Institute is still recruiting for the EDCAD-PMS trial and is encouraging those on the Alfred precinct with a family history of heart disease to get involved and better understand their own risk.

Testing is done on site, and you can find more information and register here.