ONE-OF-A-KIND FUNDING MODEL ALLOWS FOCUS ON TRANSLATIONAL RESEARCH
Penn State Hershey Neuroscience Institute is home to the Office of Patient Oriented Research (OPOR), which facilitates neurological human trials research. Director, John Graybeal, explains that the OPOR acts as more than just an industry-sponsored clinical trials office, but also makes it possible for physicians to conduct translational research on existing data, with a focus on stroke, cerebrovascular disorders, and tumors of the central nervous system. The unique funding ratio of the OPOR—40 percent from industry, 40 percent from government, and 20 percent from within the department itself—is one key component of this ongoing work.
Robert Harbaugh, M.D., director of the Neuroscience Institute, elaborates: “The OPOR has facilitated substantial growth of multidisciplinary clinical trials in the treatment of cerebrovascular disease and brain tumors at Penn State Hershey Medical Center. The goals of the Neuroscience Institute, to foster interdisciplinary collaboration and support bench to bedside and bedside to bench translational research, are greatly enhanced by the work of OPOR.”
Although the OPOR currently manages more than fifty clinical research projects in neurology and neurosurgery, including NIH-funded multicenter studies, the largest clinical areas of growth are stroke, cerebrovascular disease, and neuro-oncology. One study for which the office is currently writing a protocol is an investigator-initiated trial in patients with neoblastomas.
Penn State Hershey will be the primary site, and will investigate the optimal method of tailoring each patient’s treatment based on biomarkers specific to the particular tumor the patient has. The goal of this research is truly individualized treatment.
In addition, the OPOR is committed to advancing data management, creating and managing electronic data capture systems for many multi-center trials. As Harbaugh states, “A few years ago, data from clinical research within the Neuroscience Institute was collected in a wide range of databases. We have made significant progress in standardizing our data collection and storage format that has resulted in greater data security and smoother data capture and analysis.”
Graybeal foresees explosive growth over the next year in Penn State Hershey’s ability to gather data from its electronic medical records. Scientists can then use this vast repository of data for their own studies, as well as when identifying the best course of treatment for patients with a specific disease. Once HIPAA concerns are addressed, Graybeal contends that the OPOR’s ability to evaluate “big data” will represent a significant breakthrough in the field of translational research – a breakthrough for which his office is ideally positioned.