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Medical research inspires hopes for stroke victims

Clinical trials continue for a ‘game changer’ treatment to improve stroke victims’ mobility and pain, with more opportunities for medical application on the horizon.

University of Southern Queensland’s Associate Professor Coralie Graham and Professor Odette Best have joined with Griffith University School of Medicine for the collaboration.

“One in six Australians will suffer a stroke, double that for Indigenous Australians, and survivors can be left with significant and lifelong disability,” Associate Professor Graham said.

“Hundreds of thousands of Australians live with stroke-caused paralysis, resulting in speech problems and difficulties with swallowing, vision and thinking.

“There is currently no effective treatment for stroke disability creating a huge unmet medical need for victims and their families.”

Associate Professor Graham’s research into a perispinal etanercept treatment has already seen positive results in early testing as the project continues into a second phase of clinical trials.

“Etanercept is a drug commonly used to treat rheumatoid disorders such as arthritis and was repurposed in the trial for stroke. Perispinal delivery bypasses the blood-brain barrier allowing efficient access for the drugs to get to the brain,” Associate Professor Graham said.

“We’re using the drug and delivery method to neutralise and reawaken the inflamed zone around the stroke area. Straight after injection the patient is tilted, head down, in order to reduce neuroinflammation – possibly even many years post stroke or brain injury.

“For example, there was one participant whose speech was clearer while he was still tilted down. He sat up and started to cry because he could now move his arm.”

Currently underway is a randomised controlled double-blind clinical trial with 80 participants (40 treatment and 40 placebo), with more session planned for June/July.

It follows on from successful outcomes from a clinical trial at Griffith University, which were completed and published in early 2020.

Associate Professor Graham said the treatment had potential for other conditions with underlying neuro inflammation.

Video producer Kris Vanston is recovering from serious complications following a planned surgery mid last year. This video show his experience as a participant in the perispinal etanercept treatment clinical trial (Associate Professor Graham appears). 

women smiling
University of Southern Queensland’s Professor Odette Best and Associate Professor Coralie Graham.