Q&A | Allison Goldfine, Head of Joslin Clinical Research
Friday, January 14, 2011
Allison Goldfine, M.D., is head of Clinical, Behavioral and Outcomes Research section at Joslin and an Associate Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School. In her own research, she collaborates closely with several Joslin scientists in examining potential contributors to type 2 diabetes as well as treatments for the disease.
As an M.D., how did you end up doing clinical research on diabetes?
I love to take care of patients, and I still do that. However, I realized that research leads to better new ways to provide care.
What’s the role of clinical research at Joslin?
We have more than 40 clinical researchers and almost 150 different projects with active research volunteers. Our studies span all of the steps between a fundamental clinical observation or laboratory discovery, and its application in clinical medicine. Some studies are performed only here, while others are ongoing at many sites across the country. Some involve only adults while some are for children; some are for type 1 diabetes and some for type 2. This illustrates how broad clinical research is at Joslin.
Who volunteers for clinical research?
Very special people!
They hope to advance knowledge and improve care for others; they may or may not benefit directly themselves other than in the satisfaction of helping others.
One study subject who had a strong family history of heart disease told us that she was not doing this study for her own benefit, but that she was doing it for her children and her grandchildren because she knew that the work that we were doing would change the medicine of their future.
We cannot make advances in health care without our study volunteers.
How do they learn what’s involved?
Potential volunteers talk with our clinical research staff about what’s involved in participation in a clinical research study, such as the time commitment, the risks involved and the type of knowledge gained. Then they can make an informed decision whether or not to join the study.
What’s a recent success story?
There are many success stories. One story began with basic research by my collaborator, Dr. Steven Shoelson, which showed a link between inflammation and obesity, type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
In a national clinical trial that we reported last year, we showed that salsalate, an anti-inflammatory drug used for decades to treat arthritis pain, may be of benefit to treat patients with type 2 diabetes. During the trial, salsalate lowered blood sugar levels over three months. We’re continuing our clinical studies to see how the improvements last over a longer time interval to learn whether this arthritis drug should be used to treat patients with diabetes.
We have also launched a study called TINSAL-CVD to see if salsalate reduces the progression of coronary artery disease in patients with or without diabetes. (We’re enlisting volunteers right now.) We’ll use a remarkable new type of CAT scan to provide information on each individual’s heart health as the trial goes forward.
These salsalate studies are especially exciting as the drug is generic and inexpensive to manufacture. If we show it is safe and effective to treat diabetes or heart disease, the global health economic implications may be quite dramatic.
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