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Driving life changing research for CF patients

As Clinical Research Coordinator for The Prince Charles Hospital’s Adult Cystic Fibrosis (CF) Centre, Michelle Wood plays a critical role in progressing potentially life changing research for Queenslanders living with the condition.

With the assistance and support of a medical Principal Investigator, Ms Wood is responsible for coordinating and overseeing the pharmaceutical clinical trials for TPCH’s Adult CF Centre, an area of research that has become increasingly important to the outcomes of people with CF.

CF is a genetic, life-shortening progressive condition that results in thick secretions in the lungs, pancreas and digestive tract. Up until recently, available treatments had only managed the symptoms and complications of the disease.

However, with exciting clinical developments, TPCH has participated in the first international trials which investigate new therapies that aim to correct the underlying cause of CF, and could potentially improve the future outcomes of patients.

Ms Wood said that enrolment into clinical trials can be extremely competitive which means that research sites need to be efficient and organised.

“Trials provide our patients with access to novel therapies, so there is incentive for the site to be ready to commence when the trial opens,” Ms Wood said.

“A collaborative effort is required to conduct such studies, and this involves support from the CF clinical team and other hospital departments such as pharmacy and medical imaging.”

The track record of TPCH Adult CF Centre’s research unit speaks for itself, having participated in over 25 international CF clinical trials in the last decade. The experience and skill of the Adult CF Centre team is often sought out by pharmaceutical companies for feedback and input into study design, feasibility and logistics.

Ms Wood attributes study success to a team approach, attention to detail to ensure quality data collection and patient safety, effective communication, ability to meet deadlines and problem solve, and a passion for research.

She feels privileged to be part some of the most exciting changes in drug therapy for people with CF.

“Three drugs trialled at TPCH have become licensed in Australia in the last five years, which is a significant milestone. These medications are revolutionary and have the potential to modify the CF disease,” Ms Wood said.

“It is an honour to help drive research which has the potential to improve the outcomes and change the lives of people living with CF.”

Trial transforms Tracey’s life

Tracey Gestel on a family holiday in the Grand Canyon with husband Greg, son Shuyler, and daughter Safiya

Tracey Van Gestel’s life was transformed after accepting an offer to participate in a revolutionary trial of a drug that could potentially treat the cause of cystic fibrosis, not just the symptoms.

A patient of TPCH’s Adult CF unit for 25 years, the mother of two started the trial a decade ago when her health was rapidly deteriorating.

“At the time, I was in hospital every six to eight weeks and my lung function was extremely poor. I struggled to walk from the car to pick my son up at school,” Tracey said.

I was told I may need to start thinking about a lung transplant in the near future.”

So when the prospect of a potentially life changing drug came along, Tracey jumped at the chance – and she’s never looked back.

“Within a few weeks of starting the drug, I noticed a huge difference. I started to get better and better and my lung function increased dramatically from 40 to 60 per cent. I wasn’t out of breath anymore,” Tracey said.

“I was able to start full time work for the first time in almost 20 years.”

Tracey owes her improved health to the trial which gave her access to the life changing drug therapy. Since starting the drug 10 years ago, she has only been in hospital three times.

“This drug completely changed my life,” she said.

“Before the drug, I constantly worried about my health and if I was going to be around for my kids.

“Having improved health has given me hope for the future. It has it allowed me to see kids grow up – there’s no greater gift.”

Photo of Michelle Wood, Clinical Research coordinator for The Prince Charles Hospital's Adult Cystic Fibrosis Centre
2019-10-17T11:31:09+10:003 October 2019|