June 29, 2022

UCalgary partnership extends benefits of health research to more communities across Alberta

Cutting-edge technology underpins expanded reach of important clinical trial on use of clot-busting drugs for acute ischemic stroke treatment
Carol Kenney, Dr. Bijoy Menon
Stroke research nurse Carol Kenney was project lead in the AcT Trial, while Cumming School of Medicine's Bijoy Menon was co-principal investigator. Adrian Shellard, for the University of Calgary

UCalgary is helping to bring cutting-edge health research and health care to smaller communities across Alberta while making it more readily available to doctors and their patients.

The university is a driving force behind implementing innovative new technology with its partners called REB Exchange. The vanguard software reduces the administrative burden on researchers across the province while making it easier for smaller health centres to be involved, particularly in clinical trials that can propel new treatments.

UCalgary scientists, clinicians and Alberta hospitals have used the software for the AcT Trial, a research study with the potential for global impact that will help health-care workers make better treatment decisions in the use of clot-busting drugs for acute ischemic stroke. Read more about the results of the trial. 

The problem facing scientists and administrators was finding a way to make research available across Alberta to allow more people to participate in clinical trials no matter where they live. They needed a more efficient approval process.

“The AcT Trial and REB Exchange software together help remove barriers to accessing research while cutting administrative workload and benefiting patients,” says Dr. Bijoy Menon, MD, professor of neurology at the Cumming School of Medicine, stroke neurologist at the Foothills Medical Centre and the co-principal investigator of the AcT Trial.

By improving access to high-end research, we are improving access to health care.

Patients benefit from the results of new studies such as AcT that can spur the acceptance and use of innovative treatments for a wide range of health problems such as acute ischemic stroke. The three-year trial enrolled 700 patients in Alberta including Calgary, Edmonton, Medicine Hat and Red Deer.

“The Red Deer Stroke Program prides itself on providing expert care comparable to larger urban centres,” says Dr. Oje Imoukhuede, MD, a neurologist at the Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre. “Receiving support to collaborate in game-changing stroke research provides our patients with an even greater opportunity for improved outcomes.’’

The study also included 900 patients elsewhere in Canada. 

“Research that pushes the frontiers of new treatments tends to get done in big hospitals such as in Calgary and Edmonton with patients who are participating in studies there,” says Menon. 

REB Exchange streamlines the ethics application process for Alberta researchers, making the process faster and more accessible, particularly for smaller communities. The AcT Trial laid the foundation of doing new treatment studies in hospitals within smaller communities while REB Exchange helped to facilitate the process.

“REB Exchange facilitates more trials, makes trials faster and cuts down on red tape,” says Menon. The success of the software helps to position the province as a destination to conduct large-scale studies and clinical trials with a dynamic ecosystem for research.

“You are cutting inefficiencies in terms of times and people, you are saving money in the health-care system by being able to do research faster, you are able to do it in multiple hospitals including the smaller communities instead of just one big hospital, and you are improving health-care outcomes throughout the province,” says Menon.

Carol Kenney, RN, CCRP, project lead in the AcT Trial, says the study and software show the promise of lessening the workload for nurses while it expands research into more Alberta communities.

“It’s exciting that we are moving science forward,” says Kenney, stroke research nurse in the Calgary Stroke Program at UCalgary. “Patients in smaller centres can benefit by participating in trials of new devices and medications,” she says.

“REB Exchange has helped tremendously in managing the workload at sites such as Medicine Hat and Red Deer.”

Interested in participating in a research study? Participate in Research shows the UCalgary-led studies that are actively recruiting, and BetheCure.ca shows clinical trials across Alberta.

REB Exchange is a collaboration between Alberta institutions. The initiative is funded by Alberta Innovates, the University of Calgary, the University of Alberta, and Huron Consulting, with in-kind contributions from Alberta Health Services, to collectively support research ethics harmonization in Alberta.