Trust builds on research success after securing €1.6 million for pioneering clinical trial

by James Lockwood

Clinicians at South Tees Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust continue to build on their successful record for patient-centred research, development and innovation by leading a pioneering trial which could, ultimately, be used as a first line to detect osteoporosis.

In their latest partnership with IBEX Innovations Limited (IBEX), €1.6million has been secured from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme to investigate the effectiveness of their equipment, which can pick up bone density information alongside conventional X-ray images.

The Sedgefield Company worked in collaboration with Professor Amar Rangan, an orthopaedic surgeon at The James Cook University Hospital and the Friarage Hospital, to turn their draft protocol into the two-year grant-funded clinical trial.

It is expected the study, which also involves Newcastle Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and Newcastle University, will begin later this year.

In the UK alone, osteoporosis affects over three million people with more than 500,000 patients receiving hospital treatment for fragility fractures every year as a result of this disease. The cost to the UK health economy is an estimated £2.3billion with the potential to increase to more than £6 billion by 2036.

Currently, X-rays are used to initially diagnose a fracture but provide no information about a patient’s bone density. Consequently only patients considered to be more ‘at risk’ of having osteoporosis- typically adults over the aged of 60 – will be referred onto a specialist clinical where a ‘DEXA’ scan is taken.

Under the new study, the IBEX X-ray detector technology will ‘upgrade’ standard hospital X-ray equipment so that it also measures bone mineral density at the same time, potentially providing a quicker, more accurate diagnosis of osteoporosis of patients presenting with a fracture.

Professor Rangan, who is the trial’s Chief Investigator, said: “Essentially, if we can demonstrate this new technology is safe, reliable and effective, the benefit to patients and the NHS could be huge both in terms of patient outcomes and cost effectiveness.

“The study will involve our orthopaedic team and mainly concentrate on patients with hip and wrist fractures where we will test this new technology alongside the current way we diagnose fractures and plan treatment.”

If successful, data from the trial will be used to certify the IBEX technology as a medical device, allowing widespread adoption in healthcare markets.

Dr Neil Loxley, CEO of IBEX, said: “We are thrilled and delighted to have secured funding from the EU Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme. This is a highly competitive programme, and for IBEX to be counted within the 6% of successful applicants is a fantastic validation of the IBEX technology and the capabilities of our amazing team of people.

“We are really looking forward to working with our partners in the project to bring our important and innovative solution to market.”

In 2016/2017, the South Tees Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust had its highest ever recruiting year for clinical trials, with 3,406 patients recruited to take part in research approved by a research ethics committee, compared to 2,538 in 2015/2016, placing South Tees in the top 5% of NHS organisations in the country for the number of ‘recruiting’ National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) portfolio studies.

Professor Andrew Owens, Director of Education, Research and Innovation at South Tees Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust added: “Our ambition is to grow our reputation as a leading regional and national provider of safe, innovative, high quality care which is underpinned by research-led clinical evidence, so we’re delighted to be working with the team at IBEX and our other respective partners on this exciting healthcare project which will potentially help to deliver solutions at the front-line.”

Louise Robson, Acting Chief Executive of Newcastle Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, said: “We are pleased to be working in this regional partnership on such an important research project. Osteoporosis affects so many people so we hope this important work will benefit those who take part in the study and in the years to come.”

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