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Clinical research making impacts at Middlemore

Clinical research plays a huge role in improving patient care and health outcomes. Middlemore Clinical Trials (MMCT) is giving health professionals at Counties Manukau Health more opportunities than ever to be involved in extraordinary innovation right on their doorstep. 

MMCT is an integrated specialist clinical trial unit based at Middlemore Hospital celebrating its 20th anniversary, and they want to encourage more health professionals to get involved in clinical research.

Dr Sunil Kumar, a MMCT principal investigator and head of the CM Health Rheumatology Department, has been involved in sponsored pharmaceutical trials for more than 20 years and says participation in clinical trials has a number of advantages.

"Being involved in clinical trials allows us to be up to date with cutting-edge research and potential new therapeutic agents, positively impacting the lives of our patients. As principal investigators, we find it stimulating as well as challenging."

Middlemore Clinical Trials support clinical research from over 22 departments across Counties Manukau Health and says there are plenty of opportunities.

"The Rheumatology Department at Middlemore Hospital was involved in the early anti-TNFα trials, which led to a revolution in treating rheumatoid arthritis. Several anti-TNFα drugs are now available for different rheumatic conditions, and hundreds of people in the Counties Manukau region are benefiting from these," says Dr Kumar.

Rheumatologic disorders are often chronic, affect all age groups, and significantly burden the health care system. When these disorders are not diagnosed and treated promptly, they often lead to crippling disability and impaired quality of life.

Dr Kumar works alongside another principal investigator, Dr Mark Sapsford, and both are supported by two MMCT study coordinators, Mary Paul and Clarence Vivar-Bacani. 

They currently have active trials in rheumatoid arthritis, psoriatic arthritis, axial spondyloarthritis, and giant cell arteritis, and Dr Kumar and Dr Sapsford work collaboratively with the MMCT team to achieve their clinical research goals. 

"New trials will be starting in Systemic Lupus Erythematosus, moderate to severe Rheumatoid arthritis, and Polymyalgia Rheumatica," says Dr Kumar.

"Glucocorticoids are used in the treatment of a range of rheumatic diseases and have a long list of adverse effects like osteoporosis, diabetes, and increased risk of infection. The polymyalgia rheumatica Phase II study will assess the safety and efficacy of a novel agent (an antibody drug conjugate: a TNF-α drug combined with a glucocorticoid receptor modulator) while minimising adverse effects. This clinical research could be another big step forward in the management of not just polymyalgia rheumatica, but a range of rheumatic conditions."


MMCT is an independent charitable trust that administers commercial and grant-funded research on behalf of Counties Manukau Health. The MMCT team comprises experienced, highly trained research nurses, trial coordinators, and support staff supporting clinical trials of all types from Phase I to Phase IV.

Read the MMCT 20th Anniversary and the organisation's commitment to achieving the best health outcomes through clinical research in their annual report.

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