The Calgary Liver Unit’s integrated structure helps liver research reach those who need it most

By Clinical Trials Alberta
Calgary Liver Unit

In 2016, a groundbreaking cure for Hepatitis C was first offered to patients in Canada. The launch of this new, less harmful and more effective treatment changed the outlook for patients living with the disease. It was a historic moment and a true step toward ending Hepatitis C at home and abroad.

A key contributor to the global clinical trials that helped find this cure was the Calgary Liver Unit. Conducting clinical trials for over 20 years, the unit has led some of the world’s most impactful liver disease studies and through its work has changed the lives of countless patients across the globe.

But their success is no accident. The Calgary Liver Unit is a prime example of how the right structure can contribute to clinical trial success. At the unit’s core is a translational research program that combines patient care, clinical research and education to conduct landmark studies across a range of liver diseases and conditions.

Translational research within the Calgary Liver Unit

This integrated structure creates numerous advantages for conducting clinical trials. By merging clinical practice with a strong research program, the Calgary Liver Unit has created an ecosystem that can support trials from start-up to closure. A highly skilled team of in-house research coordinators, nurses, regulatory experts and administrative staff allows for streamlined trial management, and an internationally recognized group of investigators offers leading expertise that can’t be matched.

At a glance – The Calgary Liver Unit’s Trial Infrastructure:

  • 1 Manager
  • 3 Nurses
  • 3 Coordinators
  • 1 Bio-specimen Technician / Level 2 wet-lab support
  • 2 Administrators
  • Over 20 years of experience in clinical trials
  • Fully equipped facilities to conduct and monitor clinical trials
  • Patients identified by Hepatologists

The unit’s research programs are complemented by clinical activities, allowing for laboratory research to merge with patient bedside insights. By drawing on its clinical reach, the unit is able to help sponsors pre-screen and recruit from a participant pool of close to 2 million patients across a range of liver diseases and conditions (helping maximize patient enrollment when a project is activated).

“It’s one of the reasons industry sponsors enjoy working with us,” says Dr. Carla Coffin, Director of the Calgary Liver Unit. “We’re essentially a one stop clinical trial shop that can handle all aspects of studies – from start-up and regulatory considerations all the way to recruitment, trial execution and knowledge translation.”

The various types of expertise present within the Calgary Liver Unit bridge administrative, clinical and regulatory boundaries; fostering collaboration across multiple disciplines to help increase the efficiency and quality of clinical trials. This is further enhanced by the dynamic research environment present at the University of Calgary – where the Calgary Liver Unit is located. Based just minutes from a world-class medical school and cutting-edge veterinary school, the unit can conduct pre-clinical, phase I and first-in-human studies all the way to Phase 4 trials. Studies conducted out of the unit also benefit from University’s research infrastructure – including a full suite of dedicated labs, outpatient facilities and advanced imaging centres – that provide unique value to further streamline clinical trial activities.

“Not having to switch sites in between study phases is a major advantage”, adds Dr. Coffin.

Internationally recognized expertise in the area of liver disease adds tremendously to the Calgary Liver Unit’s unique capabilities. “Many of our members are the leads or steering committee members of various Canadian liver disease research networks – a testament to the quality of our investigators,” says Dr. Coffin.

And the unit is looking forward with high hopes. The team is now at the forefront of research being conducted to test new Hepatitis B treatments and is leading research on a liver disease growing in prominence – Non-Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease (NAFLD). The unit is also poised to continue to expand on its clinical trial capabilities.

“The right people, team and talent make all the difference,” says Pam Crotty, Clinical Research Manager at the Calgary Liver Unit. “I’m proud of the growth within our clinical trial team. We know the outcome of our work can improve the health outcomes of those who suffer from liver diseases. I’m proud to be able to lead our team in the eventual hopes of curing other diseases similar to our contribution towards finding a cure for Hepatitis C.”

To learn more about the Calgary Liver Unit, visit their website.