At an earlier point in her life, Mary Illig helped conduct lung research at the University of Nebraska Medical Center, including testing a potential new asthma drug now known as Singulair on samples of tissue.
So when she was diagnosed with breast cancer years later, she went ahead when her doctors asked whether she wanted to participate in a clinical trial. She received two estrogen-blocking drugs before undergoing a lumpectomy and radiation. She’s now cancer-free and still being followed through the trial.
“I can’t say enough about the experience and how important it is,” said Illig, now chief technical officer at Paynetworx in Omaha.
Illig spoke at a press conference at UNMC on Tuesday focused on the impact clinical trials have on the state, including giving patients treatment options and bolstering the economy.
Clinical research sponsored by the pharmaceutical industry produced an estimated economic impact in the state of $394 million in 2017, according to a new report by the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, known as PhRMA.
Since 2004, nearly 3,000 clinical trials have been conducted in Nebraska, said Zachary Poss, senior manager for state advocacy with the industry group. Today, there are 326 industry-sponsored trials open at hospitals, clinics and other sites across the state serving more than 8,000 Nebraskans. They focus on drug treatments for conditions including cancer, arthritis and infectious diseases.
The trials are needed to prove the safety and effectiveness of new medicines under development and to compile the evidence needed to seek federal approval for them.
Academic medical centers are one of the main partners in such research, Poss said. UNMC is home to nearly 70 industry-sponsored trials. CHI Health has 88 industry-sponsored trials at its metropolitan area facilities, CHI Health officials said. “Without these partners, getting lifesaving medicines to patients would be extremely difficult,” he said.
Dr. Chris Kratochvil, associate vice chancellor for clinical research at UNMC, also stressed the importance of partnerships in drug development. In addition to industry funding, the medical center receives dollars for clinical research from federal, state and philanthropic sources.
Last year, UNMC and Nebraska Medicine, its clinical partner, conducted a total of $138 million in research. That included nearly $70 million specifically in clinical research funding, an increase of 15% from the year before, said Kratochvil, also vice president for research at Nebraska Medicine.
The health system has about 400 active clinical trials supported by all funding sources and had more than 2,000 patients enrolled in clinical trials last year.
Poss said the industry group is releasing similar reports across the country.
“We really just want to make sure people know about the clinical trials that are available to them,” he said.
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Matthew Eledge and husband Elliot Dougherty plan to explain her out-of-the-ordinary birth to their daughter in terms she can understand: that her grandmother furnished the garden where she grew, and that her aunt, Lea Yribe, generously supplied the seeds.
One pothole did a passenger a favor when the ambulance he was in struck it, according to first responders. Gretna firefighters were taking a man suffering chest pain and a high heart rate to the hospital. While en route to Lakeside Hospital, the ambulance hit a pothole. The jolt returned the patient’s heart rate to normal.
Thought to be brain dead, doctors took former Creighton Bluejays play-by-play announcer T. Scott Marr off life support. Before his family settled on a funeral home, they decided to see their dad one more time. When they got there, he was awake and speaking.
Karla Perez was 22 weeks pregnant when she suffered a catastrophic brain bleed and was declared brain dead. Her unborn child was alive, but wouldn't survive delivery. So family and doctors kept her on life support. Angel was born eight weeks later.
Darnisha Ladd never imagined Snapchat would help save her life after she suffered a stroke. But needing a precise timeline of events, doctors and family relied on a post on the phone app and were able to give her a needed medication in time.
Lindsey and Derek Teten's triplets are one in a million. Literally. The Nebraska City couple's three daughters, born in late June 2017, are identical and were conceived without fertility treatments. The girls were the second set of spontaneous triplets born at Methodist Women's Hospital. The first set, also girls, was born in 2015.
What makes Jamey Dougall's health story unusual is his treatment plan. Dougall, who's legally blind, uses a special pair of glasses to see. He's seen his wife Kandice, his two daughters, and now, his favorite college football team — the Huskers.
Doctors diagnosed the paralysis that was creeping up Justin Chenier's legs as Guillain-Barre syndrome. It would become so serious that the Omaha man would nearly lose consciousness while screaming because of the pain. The syndrome was triggered by West Nile virus.
Kenze Messman's been diagnosed with several chronic illnesses. Sometimes her heart rate climbs, seizures send her to the floor and migraines leave her in the dark. And one of the ailments causes the 17-year-old to have allergic reactions to almost everything.
The skin on Sharan Bryson's leg was black from lack of circulation. She felt nothing but a sharp, stabbing pain. The leg was dead, and her best option was amputation. Bryson bounced back and put her hard work to the test by running a 5K.
Chase Tiemann has had numerous surgeries in his young life, including the amputation of his left arm. The Omaha boy has a condition that causes tumors — sometimes benign, sometimes cancerous — to form on his body. To boost his spirits after amputation, the Papillion Fire Department named Chase an honorary firefighter.
Wesley Woods battled heart disease for 20 years. He'd racked up nine heart attacks, multiple surgeries and one heart transplant. He was tired of hospitals. Tired of chest pain. Tired of feeling tired. Woods was lucky — he received a second transplant.
Amber Kudrna wasn't sure she'd be able to have a child of her own. After two kidney transplants, doctors gave the Omaha woman a laundry list of potential pregnancy complications. Kudrna and husband Adam weighed their options and, in September 2018, welcomed a baby boy.
Joe Nolan couldn't take his son James' pain away. But he could find a way to share it. Nolan got a tattoo that arched across his head, just like his son's scar. James was born with a handful of ailments, including one that regularly requires his skull to be reshaped.