One of the many ways OrthoIllinois strives to improve patient care is through research, with a dedicated department for clinical trials that is busy year-round.
Research helps OrthoIllinois provide the best treatment options for patients for a variety of diseases and procedures, according to Director of Clinical Research Lisa Foti. All patients don’t necessarily fit the mold for standard treatments – maybe they can’t have a specific surgery because of a preexisting medical condition, for example. So once a new drug or device is approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), OrthoIllinois physicians and surgeons, through their research involvement, may have several years’ worth of experience already working with them.
OrthoIllinois started its research department in 2006 and has completed 73 sponsored studies for medical devices and pharmaceutical drugs. There are 28 active studies that feature both internal research and sponsored studies, and about 42 percent of our physicians participate in clinical research. OrthoIllinois also collaborates with medical students and researchers at the University of Illinois College of Medicine at Rockford.
The list of 11 active sponsored studies is diverse: three for psoriatic arthritis; two for osteoarthritis; one for rheumatoid arthritis; three for rotator cuff (shoulder surgery); and two for knee surgery. One interesting study looks at using a patient’s own stem cells to heal cartilage lesions in the knee while another study is sending information to a national database to help improve treatment for patients with rheumatoid arthritis. OrthoIllinois doctors have worked with such well-known sponsors as Celgene and Pfizer on early research for now-common drugs Otezla and Xeljanz, for psoriatic arthritis and rheumatoid arthritis, respectively.
Patients are recruited for these studies from across the Midwest, including Illinois, Wisconsin and Iowa. Researchers also come from all over to train at OrthoIllinois: This past spring, OrthoIllinois hosted a training session featuring a world-renowned surgeon from Milan, Italy.
Foti said an added research benefit for patients is no cost for study-related office visits and treatment. Patients also typically receive more one-on-one time with the research physician and staff. The studies encompass nearly all aspects of patient services – surgery, MRI, X-ray, lab work and scheduling – and there are 129 patients currently involved in research studies.
Research can be challenging because of its very specific eligibility requirements. After OrthoIllinois publicizes a study, patients will call and be asked a series of questions to determine if they are eligible. If a study’s age range cutoff is 60, someone who is 61 wouldn’t be eligible, even if he or she met other criteria.
Research studies also require a major time commitment. It usually takes six months to a year to find appropriate patients, and then one to three years of time participating in the study. OrthoIllinois is also focused on participating in studies in their third or fourth stages of clinical trials – so there’s already been plenty of research done.
“We look for research that’s a good fit for our patient population,” Foti explained. “Our patient population is our No. 1 consideration – if there is a need, we want to serve that first and foremost.”
OrthoIllinois’ research department consists of Foti and two study coordinators, whom she called the “backbone of research.” The Riverside office has its own lab room, exam rooms and pharmacy dedicated to research. The study coordinators find patients for studies, meet with patients during office visits, make sure research protocol is being followed properly and submit regulatory information to sponsors and ethics review boards.
Interested in being a part of our clinical studies? Visit Ortho Illinois.com to view a full list of ongoing studies, and call Foti at 815-847-7078 for more information.