Each day, more than 200 researchers at the University of Sydney NHMRC Clinical Trials Centre (CTC) are pushing the frontiers of knowledge to test new treatments and improve medical practice. Over the last 30 years they have conducted over 200 clinical trials involving more than 80,000 patients and 800 international collaborators.
The Australian Placental Transfusion Study (APTS) is one example of a successful trial conducted by the CTC that has changed clinical practice in the management of premature births in hospitals in Australia and around the world.
Today, thousands of premature babies’ lives are being saved every day, which is why it was no surprise that the APTS trial was awarded ‘Clinical Trial of the Year’ by Federal Health Minister, Greg Hunt MP, and the Australian Clinical Trials Alliance in May 2018.
Following the birth of a very premature baby, standard practice has been to cut the umbilical cord immediately so that medical staff can care for the mother and baby separately. But when the cord is cut, is the baby missing out on vital oxygen and nutrients? Existing studies suggest waiting 60 seconds before cutting the cord gives babies a better start to life, but the results are not clear.
The Australian Placental Transfusion Study (APTS) aimed to determine whether immediate or delayed cord clamping was better for premature babies in the short and long term. Researchers from 25 hospitals in seven countries studied over 1,600 pre-term babies from women who were expected to deliver before 30 weeks of gestation. The trial was led by Professor William Tarnow-Mordi, Head of Neonatal and Perinatal Research at the Clinical Trials Centre (CTC).
The study found that delayed clamping of the umbilical cord could reduce the number of premature babies who died before 36 weeks. The trial team went a step further and analyzed data from 17 other studies and found that delayed clamping by 60 seconds increased the number of babies who survived by around 30 per cent. They also found that delayed cord clamping is safe for mothers and babies.
The CTC is currently running 64 trials on a range of diseases, including cancer (breast, bowel, lung, prostrate and brain), diabetes and cardiovascular disease, in addition to assessing best treatments for premature babies.
All of these questions are being currently assessed in clinical trials run by the CTC and its partners, all with the same objective - to improve the health of patients.