Importance of ResearchMatch can hit close to home

By Erin Prather Stafford

October-November 2010 /

As a grant coordinator for clinical sciences, Kelly Peck has known for years how important clinical research is to improving medical care. She just never envisioned that the results of a clinical study would have a significant impact on her own life.

Two years ago, Ms. Peck was diagnosed with colon cancer. During a consultation with Dr. Samir Gupta, assistant professor of internal medicine, she learned of research that suggests that taking aspirin may reduce the risk for future colon cancer and improve survival.

Kelly Peck

“When you see study outcome numbers pertaining to an increased percentage for your survival, you’re going to pursue it,” Ms. Peck said. “Taking aspirin is such an easy and affordable step to decrease the likelihood that my cancer will return. Had it not been for clinical research, I and other colon cancer survivors would have never known it’s a treatment option.”

 Dr. Gupta also knows the value of clinical research. “A clinical trial has shown that colon cancer survivors who take aspirin may have a reduced risk for developing new polyps that could turn into cancer,” he said. “Other research has shown that patients with colon cancer who take aspirin may have an increased chance of survival.

“However, research also suggests that such benefits must be weighed against risks of taking aspirin, such as bleeding. The research on the risks and benefits helps colon cancer survivors make individualized decisions with their doctors on whether the potential benefits of aspirin therapy may outweigh the risks. Such an opportunity would not have been possible without the participation of volunteers in clinical studies.”

Dr. Gupta and Ms. Peck both support UT Southwestern’s participation in ResearchMatch, a national registry that connects willing volunteers with researchers who are searching for appropriate subjects to be placed in their research studies.  The registry was created through a consortium of major academic institutions that are recipients of the Clinical and Translational Science Awards (CTSAs), which are funded by the National Institutes of Health.

Anyone from the U.S. can register at ResearchMatch.org. Investigators are looking for people of all ages, both healthy individuals and those with specific health conditions.  A parent, legal guardian or caretaker may register someone younger than 19 or adults who are unable to enter in their own information.

UT Southwestern employees know research studies are under way on campus, and they are interested in participating, said Dr. Blair Holbein, the medical center’s liaison with ResearchMatch, but they might not know how to volunteer.

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How scientists can take advantage of ResearchMatch

For researchers, sometimes the most challenging part of conducting a clinical research study is finding participants, and ResearchMatch is meeting the needs of both the volunteers and the investigators.

Interested individuals can register on the ResearchMatch website (www.researchmatch.org). Participants can remove themselves from the registry at any time and are never obligated to take part in a study if they are contacted.

Ms. Peck, who signed up for the program, said she hopes participation leads to more trials pertaining to colon cancer.

“At some point, a researcher might need someone who had my stage of cancer and simply want to track my progress,” she said. “Not all trials involve taking medicine. The study could be about clinical outcomes and factors that are common among groups of cancer patients. As
UT Southwestern employees, we’re blessed to have the opportunity to participate in research studies conducted where we work.”

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