At a year, AVMA database amassing clinical studies

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At a year, the AVMA Animal Health Studies Database has seen success in amassing clinical studies in veterinary medicine.

Todd and Teresa, and Jake
Todd and Teresa Pratt of Knoxville, Tennessee, were referred to the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine after an aggressive glioblastoma was diagnosed in Jake, their 5-year-old Shepherd mix. Jake participated in a clinical trial led by Dr. John Rossmeisl, professor of neurosurgery. Jake lived for only about a month after his diagnosis, but the Pratts were grateful for the opportunity to advance veterinary medicine and said they will never forget the dedication and compassion shown by those treating their "big boy." (Photo by Alison Elward)

This July marks the one-year anniversary of the public launch of the database as a resource for researchers seeking animals to participate in clinical studies and for veterinarians and animal owners exploring options for treatment.

As of late May, the database listed 279 studies and had averaged about 2,500 searches per month since the public launch. There are studies in every state, the District of Columbia, and two provinces in Canada. There are studies in 17 primary fields of veterinary medicine or species, from agricultural animals to soft-tissue surgery. There are studies recruiting dogs, cats, horses, and cattle—and even one study recruiting rabbits.

Dr. Ed Murphey, an assistant director in the AVMA Education and Research Division, said many state VMAs, other veterinary organizations, and practices link to the database from their websites. He added that the database appears at the top of Google search results for "veterinary clinical trials" and "veterinary clinical studies."

Mindy Quigley, coordinator of clinical trials at the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine, is enthusiastic about the AVMA project getting off the ground. She said the database is a great resource for animal owners, who often spend a lot of time going through practice or university websites.

"Having one place rather than a number of different scattered sites will eventually be a transformative thing for owners and veterinarians who are interested in clinical research," Quigley said. "Probably the biggest barrier to enrollment is just getting the information into the hands of the people who need it, so any tool that we can have that casts a wider net is definitely something that is going to help the entire field."

Quigley also appreciates that the database will allow researchers to report results from studies that are complete. She said, "Oftentimes, there's not a great way to share study results, particularly if it's just a small pilot study at one university and gets published in an obscure veterinary journal."

When speaking at continuing education events, Quigley spreads the word about the database to practitioners. She said, "Clinical trials are often not at the forefront of a veterinarian's mind, so that's a larger mindset shift that needs to occur."

Quigley is always surprised at what animal owners are willing to do, whether they are owners seeking treatment for ill animals or owners of a particular breed of dog seeking to help understand a problem in the breed.

Dr. Michael D. Lairmore is a member of the AVMA Council on Research and dean of the University of California-Davis School of Veterinary Medicine. He said the AVMA Animal Health Studies Database really enhances veterinary medicine because clinical trials in patient-owned animals contribute to raising the standard of care.

He said, "Most of these are designed to improve treatments, develop new diagnostics, identify genetic causes of disease in animals—all of which are of great interest obviously to veterinarians, but also animal owners as well."

At UC-Davis, the Veterinary Center for Clinical Trials is a drawing card for patients, Dr. Lairmore said. As an example, a trial of stem cells to treat gingivostomatitis in cats has accrued patients quickly. Referring veterinarians said they were frustrated that they didn't have anything else to offer in the way of treatment.

Dr. Lairmore said the AVMA database is off to a good start. He noted that experts curate the studies, serving as quality control and making sure information is correct. He said, "What we need next is to publicize it more."

AVMA Convention 2017 in Indianapolis this July will feature two sessions highlighting the database. Dr. Murphey of the AVMA will discuss "Clinical Trials in Patient-Owned Animals: Raising the Standard of Care for All." Dr. Rodney Page, director of the Flint Animal Cancer Center at Colorado State University, will discuss "Advocating for Your Client/Patient Through Clinical Studies Participation."

Search the AVMA Animal Health Studies Database.

Related JAVMA content:

AVMA launches database of clinical studies (July 15, 2016)