With a nearly 30-year history in academic research, Dr. Christine Turley offers a variety of perspectives into the world of clinical research. After a start in private practice, Dr. Turley went on to spend a large portion of her career in vaccine research and development. A general pediatrician by trade, Dr. Turley currently serves as director of the Research Center for Transforming Health at the University of South Carolina. The mission of the center is to help investigators and their teams conduct transformative research by helping overcome barriers that are often present in newer research settings.
Prior to her current position, Dr. Turley served in a variety of roles at the University of Texas Medical Branch (UTMB) in Galveston, Tex. She worked in clinical education, was the vice chair of Clinical Programs, and was heavily involved in the institution’s clinical operations.
She is currently involved in the administration of the Pharmacokinetics of Understudied Drugs Administered to Children per Standard of Care (PTN POPS) study at the University of South Carolina. We recently spent time discussing the importance of the study as well as clinical research in general.
Q: How would you explain the importance of clinical research, specifically for children?
A: We treat children every day and we try to treat them with the best evidence possible. But what we’re realizing is that, in many cases, the evidence is limited. In many cases we’re treating based on experience instead of data. The other thing about research, specifically in children, that is really important is that many chronic diseases originate in childhood. Our opportunity to help prevent this trajectory has never been more compelling than it is now. It’s too late to start working on hypertension when people are 50. We’re realizing now that it’s better to start at the very beginning of a person’s life.
Q: Why should people care about the findings of the PTN POPS study?
A: Over time, we’ve seen the level of variability that exists in children. The physiology of children changes very much over the child’s lifespan. It may seem obvious, but a 17 year old is very different than a seven month old. As we’re using medications on children, it’s important that we get better information so that we’re providing the best care possible and not running the risk of worsening conditions. We know we can do better, and studies like PTN POPS provide us with the opportunity to do better and provide better care for children.
Q: USC became involved in PTN as part of the IDeA States Pediatric Clinical Trials Network (ISPCTN). Can you explain the importance of (ISPCTN)?
A: ISPCTN is a component of the larger NIH Environmental Influences on Child Health Outcomes (ECHO) program. The IDeA State initiative weaves together the pediatric research community in a very interesting way by including other pediatric investigators and populations that are important, but otherwise may not have an opportunity to participate in ECHO. As a result, the research community becomes much more holistic and places an equal value on all components, creating synergy for pediatric research across the country. The capacity enhancements are wonderful and it’s very gratifying to invite other groups into research that may not have an opportunity otherwise.
Q: What are the benefits of having the University of South Carolina involved in the PTN POPS study?
A: There are three levels at which I see a benefit to USC’s involvement with PTN POPS. The most traditional is that we’ve been able to enroll patients in this study and engage with clinical investigators in other areas. At the bedside level, the teams are very interested in this project because they feel like there is the opportunity to impact patients they see every day. The second benefit is that it has proven the value of research to our group, which is relatively small and young in comparison to others. The third is that it has proven the value of research to our leadership. Even though we’re not enrolling 1,000 kids and making a huge amount of money for our institution, it is extremely relevant to the safety and quality of our care, which we all care about very much.