The ALS Association of Texas invests in research to discover effective treatments and a cure for ALS. One of the ways we support research locally is through clinical trials, which are conducted at our ALS clinics across the state.
Dr. Carlayne Jackson, Medical Director of the ALS Clinic at UT Health San Antonio, first became interested in clinical trials in neuromuscular disease as a medical resident at the clinic. She would be the first to tell you she “fell in love with the patients” she treated during her residency, fellowship and eventually her first two years of leading the clinic’s ALS studies.
Founded in 1996, the clinic is designated as an ALS Association Certified Treatment Center. Dr. Jackson and her staff have used their multidisciplinary approach to offer hope for the future of ALS to their South Texas community and the 250 ALS patients they serve. Through the generosity of the ALS Association and the Glenn Biggs Institute for Alzheimer’s and Neurodegenerative Diseases at UT Health San Antonio, the clinic has recently been able to add neuropsychological testing and the services of a Nurse Research Coordinator to their offerings.
The Clinical Trials Process
The Research Coordinator meets with patients interested in participating in a clinical trial, sharing helpful information, including the number of visits, what to expect at each visit, potential side effects and treatment effectiveness. Once they have a thorough understanding of the risks and benefits, patients are screened to determine if they meet the criteria defined by the company or group sponsoring the trial. It is important to note that most of the criteria are put in place to protect each patient’s safety. Researchers must quickly determine if an intervention is working or not.
After a particular therapy has gone through Phase I testing on a healthy population, the San Antonio clinic conducts Phase II and Phase III trials on ALS patients accepted into the studies. Phase II trials focus on safety and dosing of the medication. Next comes the pivotal trial – Phase III – which the FDA reviews in order to determine the drug’s approval for patients outside of the trial. Phase II trials typically take six to 12 months, whereas Phase III trials can last 12-18 months.
The Importance of Clinical Trials
Dr. Jackson believes clinical trials are vital.
We will never be successful in bringing effective therapies to ALS patients without them first being studied in trials. We can’t prove what does or doesn’t work without a trial,” she says.
Through clinical trials at ALS clinics, such as the one at UT Health San Antonio, we are one step closer to finding treatments and a cure for ALS.