Shelby Kline: 'For participants not responding to traditional therapies, clinical trials can be life-changing.'

COURTESY PHOTO - Shelby KlineOregon is home to more than 500 clinical trials and 8,000 trial participants. The biopharmaceutical industry's $171 million investment in clinical trials sites in Oregon have resulted in $450 million in economic impact for our state.

Clinical trials are the most time and resource intensive part of developing innovative medicines and treatments for Oregon's patients. On average, it takes 10 to 15 years and less than 12% of medicines that reach the clinical trial stage get federal approval. But rightly, new medicines and treatments cannot be approved without a clinical trial. During this phase of research, we're both confirming efficacy and safety for patients.

While the COVID-19 pandemic has brought to light the vital importance and benefit of clinical trials for our society, it also caused stagnation and delays in clinical research of other diseases and illnesses. As director of clinical research at the Center for Cognitive Health, I saw firsthand how clinical trials were forced to slow down or postponed during the past 18 months. For researchers, and most importantly the participants we work with every day, the blow to clinical trials has been disheartening during this already stressful time, especially considering many of these participants are among the most vulnerable populations.

Even before COVID-19, it was difficult to find clinical trial participants. Many participants are unaware of clinical trials available in their community or have a mistaken idea that clinical trials are cold, impersonal tests full of poking and prodding. In fact, clinical trials provide participants with early access to cutting edge trial therapies and highly personal care. For participants not responding to traditional therapies, clinical trials can be life-changing.

In Oregon, researchers are working on clinical trials for many complex conditions. At the Center for Cognitive Health, we specialize in helping patients maximize their cognitive function as they cope with Alzheimer's disease and other cognitive disorders. September is World Alzheimer's Month and we've seen amazing developments this year.

Early this summer, the U.S. Food and Drug administration granted a breakthrough antibody drug therapy for Alzheimer's disease based on clinical trial evidence. That wouldn't have been possible without clinical trial participants who were willing to volunteer. This is welcome news to the more than 6 million Americans with Alzheimer's disease, which is anticipated to increase in the coming years.

If we want to continue to make progress on COVID-19, Alzheimer's disease and countless other viruses and diseases, we need more Oregonians to volunteer for clinical trials. This past year has made it clear, we're in this together.

Find more information about clinical trials in Oregon by visiting the Oregon Alliance for Clinical Researchers websites, or

Shelby Kline is director of clinical research at Center for Cognitive Health and member of the Oregon Alliance of Clinical Researchers.

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