Webinar Review: Neurology Clinical Trials are Failing, How Can We Fix Them?

Over the course of the semester, our trainees are reviewing webinars in their given fields and preparing abstracts to help colleagues outside their discipline make an informed choice about watching them. As our program bridges diverse disciplines, these abstracts are beneficial for our own group in helping one another gain key knowledge in each other’s fields. We are happy to share these here for anyone else who may find them helpful.

Neurology Clinical Trials are Failing, How Can We Fix Them?

Bruce Rosen, MD-Ph.D, Professor of Radiology Harvard Medical School; Alex Drzezga, MD-Ph.D, Department of Nuclear Medicine University Hospital of Cologne; Timothy McCarthy, Ph.D, Head of Digital Medicine and Translational Medicine Pfizer

April 15, 2021


William BakerAnalysis by William Baker:

In this webinar, Dr. Rosen, Dr. Drzezga, and Dr. McCarthy discuss obstacles contributing to limitations in the efficacy and reproducibility of neurology clinical trials.  This webinar places particular emphasis on the utilization of imaging in combination with other experimental techniques to facilitate the transition from research to clinical translation of neurological therapies. This webinar is invaluable as it offers excellent insight regarding the design of experimental conditions to maximize the likelihood that new, innovative technologies can be utilized to realize improved patient outcomes in the clinical setting.

The webinar begins by briefly introducing the backgrounds of the three speakers, with an emphasis on their qualifications with respect to clinical testing of neurological therapies. The speakers first highlight the fact that clinical translation of neurological therapies imposes obstacles unique from other tissues, as neurological conditions are not necessarily easy to image and rely on subtle changes in neurological signal transmission.  They then discuss one important modality to address these issues, namely the utilization of biomarkers.  They emphasize the importance of identifying protein-based signals that are indicative of disease conditions, as imaging techniques can be used to exploit the presence of these markers to inform on disease state and treatment efficacy. Such techniques can then be used to circumvent limitations surrounding morphology-based identification of neurological afflictions.

The speakers go on to discuss the critical nature of the incorporation of advanced algorithms in future clinical analyses.  Specifically, the authors emphasize that efficient algorithms are vital for not only experimental design, but also the selection of patient populations.  In particular, they stress that techniques such as machine learning can be used to intelligently select patient populations to maximize the relevance of subsequent results for the greater populace. Moreover, the use of such algorithms can be used to more closely analyze clinical analyses and refine experimental techniques to overcome limitations surrounding the clinical translation of neurological therapies.

Overall, I find this webinar to be quite illuminating, as it offers perspectives that are not always pervasive in academic research.  This video provides valuable insight to motivate careful experimental design at the bench scale to increase the likelihood of ultimate results achieving clinical significance.