May 9, 2008

New Web site aims to boost clinical trial recruitment

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A new Web site developed by Paul Harris, Ph.D., above, and Anna Belle Leiserson makes it easier for interested people to volunteer for clinical trials. (photo by Neil Brake)

New Web site aims to boost clinical trial recruitment

Vanderbilt Medical Center this week launched a new Web site to make it easier for people to volunteer for clinical studies — and for researchers to find them.

The site — — aims to at least triple the number of volunteers who participate in clinical trials of new vaccines, new cancer treatments and a multitude of other treatments at Vanderbilt.

About 3,500 volunteers are currently enrolled in an existing site, Volunteer for Research, which was developed several years ago for the Clinical Research Center.

“That has been helpful, but we need larger numbers,” said Kathy Edwards, M.D., professor of Pediatrics and principal investigator of Vanderbilt's Vaccine and Treatment Evaluation Unit. The new site “will be enormously important and helpful” to the entire vaccine research program (, she said.

The beefed up recruitment effort is part of StarBRITE (, a “biomedical research integration, translation and education” portal developed as part of the Vanderbilt Institute for Clinical and Translational Research (VICTR).

VICTR was established last fall with a $46 million Clinical and Translational Research Award (CTSA) from the National Institutes of Health, the largest single government grant ever received by Vanderbilt University.

“There are a myriad of things going on to enhance the environment for conducting clinical and translational research,” said Gordon Bernard, M.D., principal investigator of the CTSA, VICTR director and assistant vice chancellor for Research.

The new Clinical Trials Web site, which was developed by Paul Harris, Ph.D., director of CTSA Biomedical Informatics Operations, and Anna Belle Leiserson, Web coordinator for the Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center, is a case in point.

Visitors can search for clinical trials at Vanderbilt that currently are recruiting volunteers by health topic or disease, by doctor or by medical discipline. Researchers can choose to list or “de-list” their study on the site, depending upon the need for volunteers.

The new site also provides information about the importance of clinical trials to the advancement of medical knowledge and treatment.

It links to other Vanderbilt sites with active clinical research programs, including those operated by the Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center and the Vanderbilt Kennedy Center for Research for Human Development, as well as to international lists of clinical trials maintained by the National Institutes of Health.

Finally, visitors can volunteer for clinical trials by completing a “recruitment registry profile” that requests information about demographics, medical conditions, medications and prior medical treatments. The information will help researchers identify potential volunteers who meet the requirements for their particular studies.

Harris said building the site has been “well worth the effort to help researchers find study participants.” And it helps to satisfy his goal “to lower the researcher burden in conducting clinical and translational science.”

“One of the things we said we were missing is a place on the Internet for people to go and feel they have arrived at clinical research at Vanderbilt,” Bernard added. “That's the overarching goal: to provide a one-stop shop for clinical research.”