September 2022

New Bristol Trials Centre Director

In July, we welcomed a new director to the Bristol Trials Centre. Rebecca Kearney is a Professor of trauma and orthopaedic rehabilitation and was previously the Associate Director of Warwick Clinical Trials Unit (2017-2022) before moving to become the Bristol Trials Centre Director.

Professor Kearney leads the design and delivery of clinical trials that evaluate the clinical and cost effectiveness of rehabilitation interventions in the area of trauma and orthopaedic rehabilitation, leading directly to patient benefit. She holds grants as Chief Investigator and co-applicant with a range of NIHR funding streams, including HTA, RfPB and EME. She has held a Versus Arthritis doctoral Fellowship, two post-doctoral NIHR Fellowships and a NIHR Future-Focussed Leadership Programme award.

Supporting aspiring non-medical clinical academics has been a key role for Professor Kearney. She was a member of the NIHR ICA Clinical Doctoral Research Fellowship committee (2017-2021) and has continued supporting successful NIHR ICA Fellows through a national mentorship scheme and has also successfully supported non-medical academics with securing and completing NIHR funded pre-doctoral and doctoral training awards.

Professor Kearney supports wider national networks in her field through committee roles with the Association of Trauma and Orthopaedic Chartered Physiotherapists and UK Fragility Fracture Network. Through these roles she has supported three research priority setting partnerships in fragility fracture management, complex fracture management and foot and ankle surgery, with the James Lind Alliance. Professor Kearney is also a current member of the NIHR HTA committee and Chair of the NIHR RfPB regional funding committee in the West Midlands.

All staff at the Bristol Trials Centre would like to welcome Professor Kearney, and thank our outgoing director Professor Chris Rogers for her dedication over the years.

Landmark study of anxiety treatment for autistic adults recruits over 120 participants

Many autistic adults experience anxiety and find it very difficult to deal with. Medications like sertraline are often prescribed for anxiety in autistic adults, but whether they work, and what their side effects are in the autistic population, is not well known.

The STRATA study was co-produced by experienced researchers, clinicians, and autistic people, and is the first trial of its kind to investigate whether an antidepressant may be an effective treatment for anxiety in adults with a diagnosis of autism.

Over 120 participants have now been enrolled in the study, making this the largest ever study of a medication to treat anxiety in autistic people. The study also has an excellent rate of follow-up (97%  of participants have returned their follow up questionnaires for the primary outcome measure at 16-weeks (as of 28th September 2022). You can read about current participants’ reasons for taking part in STRATA here.

An advisory group of autistic adults have been involved with the study from the very beginning – from planning and design, through to delivery and evaluation. In addition, Jack Welch acts as an Autistic Advisory Group representative in the Trial Management Group, where he ensures that the views of autistic people are reflected in the ongoing development of the study. You can hear more from Jack on his role in STRATA here.

The study aims to recruit 306 participants in total. Participation is entirely remote, so people can take part wherever they live in the UK (using for example video or telephone calling, email, etc), with medication sent out for free by post.

We are continuing to invite adults with a diagnosis of autism who experience anxiety to take part in STRATA.

To find out more about what’s involved in taking part, and how to express an interest, please click here, or contact us: / 0117 428 3001.

The study is being funded by the UK National Institute for Health Research Health Technology Assessment programme (NIHR HTA, reference 127337) and the Australian National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC; reference 1171206). The views expressed are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of the UK NIHR, Department of Health and Social Care, or NHMRC.

This study is not funded by any pharmaceutical company. The research is led by a team of experienced doctors and researchers and is sponsored by the University of Bristol (UK) and University of Western Australia. This study was designed and delivered in collaboration with the Bristol Randomised Trials Collaboration (BRTC), a UKCRC registered clinical trial unit (CTU) which, as part of the Bristol Trials Centre (BTC), is in receipt of NIHR CTU support funding.