Transforming Hope Into Reality

With a team of 32 research professionals led by Candice Sareli, MD, Chief Medical Research Officer, Memorial’s Office of Human Research offers a centralized office for physicians and clinical staff to perform research studies.

“When we started we had 22 physicians in four subspecialties working on research projects,” said Dr. Sareli. “Now we have 112 physicians representing 36 subspecialties, touching nearly every department in the healthcare system.”

This year, the Office of Human Research hosted 157 open-to-accrual studies involving 2,375 patients. Since 2012, the office has facilitated more than 700 studies, with more than 6,000 patients participating.

“The benefits these patients are receiving in terms of new treatments and other options are amazing,” Dr. Sareli said.

One of the primary areas of research is in oncology, and the exciting opportunities presented by immunotherapy. Researchers are conducting groundbreaking trials in potential vaccines against breast and lung cancer, in which patients receive vaccinations to help them form antibodies against their tumor cells. Last year, 321 patients were enrolled in Memorial Cancer Institute’s clinical trials.

“The work of the Office of Human Research provides benefits for both patients and physicians,” Dr. Sareli said. “Patients enjoy the convenience of having an academic institution like Memorial in their own backyard, and physicians know that Memorial will support every clinician who wants to do research. It also helps Memorial attract more outstanding physicians from around the country, who, as our Graduate Medical Education program begins, will be needed to help train the physicians of tomorrow.”

“ When we started, we had 22 physicians in four subspecialties working on research projects. Now we have 112 physicians representing 36 subspecialties, touching nearly every department in the healthcare system.”
Candice Sareli, MD

Chief Medical Research Officer, Memorial’s Office of Human Research

Memorial Physicians and Their Research

Hearts and Minds

Can hypertension and heart failure be treated via the nervous system? The answer appears to be yes. The Barostim neo®, recently approved by the FDA, is a pacemaker-like device implanted in the chest that delivers electric impulses to carotid artery and from there to the brain – which then sends signals to reduce blood pressure and improve cardiac blood flow. Memorial launched a trial with the device in March of 2018.

“Because the device forces relaxation of the arteries, in patients with advanced heart failure it can forestall the progression of the disease, reduce symptoms and possibly prolong life, something that’s being evaluated in the current trial,” said Daniel Benhayon, MD. “It’s so valuable that Memorial can offer new and advanced therapies that patients wouldn’t otherwise be able to get.”

Apply QuikClot, Leave More Quickly

With the majority of cardiac catheterizations at Memorial performed through the wrist, physicians were looking for a way to decrease post-procedure bleeding and time spent in recovery. Traditional hemostatic devices stop bleeding in a little less than three hours, but a Memorial pilot trial with the product QuikClot Radial was able to cut the time to 30 minutes.

“This study was entirely physician-initiated,” said Jonathan Roberts, MD. “Partnering with Z-Medica and the Office of Human Research, we showed we could significantly reduce the bleeding and recovery time, which is much better for the patient. Thanks to this success, we’re getting ready to launch a large trial with 300 patients.”

A Stimulating Study for RA

For patients with chronic inflammatory diseases like rheumatoid arthritis, SetPoint Medical’s Vagus Nerve Stimulation Device is promising to deliver results. Memorial pediatric neurosurgeon Heather Spader, MD, used the device with two RA patients as part of a larger study of 15 subjects in seven research centers across the country.

“When placed on the vagus (cranial) nerve, the device sends electric impulses that stimulate the body’s anti-inflammatory pathways,” Dr. Spader explained. “This helps provide pain control for RA patients and opens another treatment option for those who suffer from this debilitating disease.”

A Bigger Window for Acute Stroke Treatment

In January, Brijesh Mehta, MD, Medical Director, Stroke and Critical Care, co-authored findings in The New England Journal of Medicine on successful efforts to widen the six-hour treatment window for mechanical thrombectomy – blood-clot removal that significantly improves outcomes for stroke patients with large-vessel occlusion.

“Memorial was selected for these trials based on our high volumes and efficient processes – one of just four centers in Florida,” Dr. Mehta explained. Involving 150 patients and utilizing advanced brain imaging performed in the emergency room, the DAWN trial showed that thrombectomy in the cath lab could still be beneficial up to 24 hours after a stroke.

“This is great for patients who may not recognize their stroke symptoms promptly,” Dr. Mehta said. “And as a Joint Commission-certified, Comprehensive Stroke Center, Memorial is able to provide advanced interventional treatment to a wider range of patients, quickly and effectively.”