The Pediatric Trials Network (PTN) welcomed its first two Australian sites in February. Sydney Children’s Hospitals Network and the Royal Children’s Hospital in Melbourne are now participating in PTN’s Pharmacokinetics of Understudied Drugs in Infants and Children (POPS) study.
The sites are currently involved in the Paediatric Trials Network Australia (PTNA), a counterpart of PTN that brings together pediatric researchers from across Australia who are committed to improving child health through the facilitation of pediatric clinical trials.
“These sites bring considerable experience in pediatric research and will make a significant contribution to PTN’s work,” said Dr. Danny Benjamin, principal investigator for the PTN. “In addition, their involvement will expand PTN’s global footprint, allowing us to gather data from a more diverse and widespread group of children and infants that can better inform our research.”
The POPS study is designed to assess the pharmacokinetics of a variety of commonly used drugs in children and infants that have limited safety and dosing information in the pediatric population. More than 70 drugs used to treat nearly 50 diseases and conditions have been studied so far.
Fifteen sites in states participating in the NIH Institutional Development Award (IDeA) program are being onboarded into the Pediatric Trials Network’s (PTN) POPS study of commonly used medications in children.
The IDeA program aims to build research capacities in states that have historically received low levels of NIH funding by supporting research, faculty development, and infrastructure improvements. The IDeA States Pediatric Clinical Trial Network (ISPCTN), a network of IDeA sites established by the NIH’s Environmental Influences on Child Health Outcomes (ECHO) Program, recruits study participants from states whose populations are disproportionately rural and medically underserved.
“Historically, these populations have been underrepresented in multicenter clinical trials and their involvement in this study will provide them an opportunity to participate in clinical research,” said Jeannette Y. Lee, principal investigator for the ISPCTN and Professor of Biostatistics at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences. “PTN will also provide the sites with a way of interacting with a large community of clinical trial researchers and a venue for contributing to clinical research.”
“We are excited to welcome these sites, and feel confident that they will make a vital contribution to the POPS study,” said Dr. Chiara Melloni, co-investigator of the study and Assistant Professor of Medicine at Duke University. “Their participation will allow PTN to expand enrollment and ensure that a more diverse and inclusive population of children is represented in this important study.”
The 15 new study sites are:
Alaska Native Medical Center in Anchorage, Alaska
Kapiolani Medical Center for Women and Children in Honolulu, Hawaii
University of Kansas Medical Center in Kansas City, Kansas
Tulane University Health Science Center in New Orleans, Louisiana
University of Mississippi Medical Center in Jackson, Mississippi
Children’s Mercy Hospitals and Clinics in Kansas City, Missouri
University of Montana in Missoula, Montana
Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in Dartmouth, New Hampshire
University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center in Albuquerque, New Mexico
University of Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha, Nebraska
Board of Regents of the University of Oklahoma in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
Rhode Island Hospital in Providence, Rhode Island
University of Vermont Medical Center in Burlington, Vermont
University of South Carolina in Columbia, South Carolina
West Virginia University Hospital in Morgantown, West Virginia
Four IDeA sites are already participating in the study: the Arkansas Children’s Research Institute in Little Rock, Arkansas; the Alfred I. DuPont Hospital for Children in Wilmington, Delaware; the University of Louisville Norton Children’s Hospital in Louisville, Kentucky; and the Medical University of South Carolina Children’s Hospital in Charleston, South Carolina.
TMP/SMX is a combination antibiotic used to treat various types of bacterial infections in children, including urinary tract infections, bacterial pneumonia, and skin abscesses caused by methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA). Although it is one of the most commonly used drugs for treating infections in infants and children, pharmacokinetic data in children are lacking and appropriate dosing information had never been determined for this population.
“It’s common to extrapolate adult doses to treat children,” said Dr. Michael (Micky) Cohen-Wolkowiez, co-principal investigator for the study. “However, developmental changes during childhood play a significant role in drug dosing, and failure to account for these changes often leads to decreased drug efficacy and safety in young patients.”
During the study, investigators analyzed samples from 153 infants and children who had been given TMP/SMX as part of their treatment. The TMP/SMX combination is one of more than 30 drug therapies given as part of standard care that are being evaluated in POPS, a study that began in 2011 and is expected to have enrolled approximately 3000 patients by 2018.
Only a small percentage of drugs and devices approved by the FDA are actually labeled for pediatric use. As a result, pediatricians must frequently prescribe medical therapies according to their best guess based on dosing information from adult studies.
PTN, a network of more than 100 sites in 5 countries, aims to fill this gap by conducting trials primarily with off-patent drugs that lack data to guide their use in pediatric populations. Since its inception in 2011, it has studied 72 drugs to determine appropriate dosing for children and infants.
PTN studies managed via the POPS paradigm seek to determine the appropriate dosing of understudied drugs in children by using samples collected as part of regular care (for example, blood draws). The data collected provides valuable pharmacokinetic and dosing information for drugs in different pediatric age groups and special pediatric populations (such as obese children).
Dr. Ram Yogev, POPS Investigator at Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago, explains, “The current empirically-based dose selection for pediatric patients can be improved by applying evidence-based dosing strategies. POPS studies provide important information about how best to dose medications in children and adolescents, and support dosing strategies that provide the best chance for any given drug to demonstrate both efficacy and acceptable tolerability.”
Since its inception, POPS has investigated 48 understudied drugs with 19 currently enrolling. POPS has a total of 31 active sites, and in March, two UK sites joined the ranks, Southampton General Hospital and Alder Hey Children’s Hospital. As of June 1, POPS sites enrolled 1904 participants of the targeted 3000.
For an example of an outstanding PTN site, look no further than Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago. The top enrolling site for the POPS study, Lurie Children’s has enrolled 244 patients as of September 22. To put this number into perspective, the second highest enrolling POPS site has recruited 117 patients, and the third highest 99 patients. Lurie Children’s is also a leader in the clindamycin trial, enrolling almost one third of the patients needed to complete the study. A nimble team of 6 individuals makes it all happen, under the direction of Dr. Ram Yogev, site PI and professor in Pediatrics–Infectious Diseases at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.
Dr. Yogev attributes his site’s success to communication and dedication. Site team members participate in a mandatory weekly meeting to review study progress over the preceding week and to identify and troubleshoot any problems that may have arisen. This combination of accountability and collaboration helps to ensure that everyone keeps invested in the team’s success.
But, Dr. Yogev is careful to note, communication must extend beyond the confines of the site team to ensure optimal conduct of a study. To this end, he devotes a great deal of time nurturing relationships in other departments at his institution to facilitate understanding of study goals and to bank good will with people who can help make reaching those goals possible. Dr. Yogev observes, “You can’t rely on the hierarchy to make things happen; it’s personal relationships that create a willingness to help.”
For example, one study of a drug with a very short half-life required sampling at 3 time points within a half hour. To ensure coverage for those draws, non-study personnel in relevant departments had to be enlisted and reminded to alert the site team of when eligible patients would be available. Such teamwork would be difficult to foster had those individuals not been approached and befriended by Dr. Yogev. “Thanks to this study, I have more friends than I had before,” he jests.
Much of what drives Dr. Yogev to go the extra mile in this regard is the desire to be an example to his team. “If your people see that you are dedicated,” he observes, “they will try to match or even beat that dedication.” In fact, he admits that he is in friendly competition with his study coordinator, Laura Fearn, to be the best at what they do (and she usually wins, he notes). Other team members who routinely go above and beyond include Jannie Stewart (site phlebotomist), Kathy Rosa (regulatory specialist), and Mayra Gomez (data entry coordinator).
When asked about why he decided to become involved with the Pediatric Trial Network, Dr. Yogev highlights the critical lack of knowledge to inform dosing of the vast majority of drugs used in kids. Collaboration between government, academia, and industry, he notes, is a positive way to make crucial changes — “I only wish I had come up with the idea myself!”
The POPS study is moving full steam ahead. In September 2012, the study received additional funding from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development to effectively double in size, increasing the number of patients enrolled from 500 to ~1000 and doubling the number of participating sites from ~15 to ~30.
And the new year has brought new momentum. In January, the study added 7 new drugs of interest to the 12 already being studied. To date, 375 patients are enrolled, and recruitment will continue into 2014 unless the targeted enrollment is met sooner. Analysis of one drug of interest – ampicillin – is already underway.
POPS (Pharmacokinetics of Understudied Drugs Administered to Children per Standard of Care) is designed to characterize the pharmacokinetics of drugs that lack specific dosing recommendations and safety data in children. Many drugs prescribed in the United States lack such information for kids, and, unfortunately, these knowledge gaps place young people at risk for adverse events and therapeutic failure.
In POPS, the drugs of interest are being administered to children by their treating physicians according to local standards of care. The only study procedure involves biological sample collection during the time of drug administration. Participants are followed for up to 90 days. To find out whether there’s a participating site near you, visit clinicaltrials.gov.