Dr. Douglas Bradley: Canadian investigator oversees ambitious global clinical trial

July 21, 2014

Making Clinical Trials Happen

This is part of an ongoing series of profiles about different members of Ontario’s clinical trials community.

Dr. Douglas Bradley

When Dr. Douglas Bradley flips on his computer in the morning, his busy inbox usually has emails from some of the 35 sites he’s responsible for in a six-country clinical trial.

A senior investigator at Toronto Rehab-University Health Network, Dr. Bradley is study chair on the ambitious trial that relates to sleep apnea and congestive heart failure. Renowned for his research on sleep apnea, Dr. Bradley is an example of the top clinical and research talent that exists in Ontario.

The randomized trial that Dr. Bradley is leading has attracted funding from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research and industry-partner Philips Respironics Inc. Taking place in Canada, Germany, Spain, Italy, the United Kingdom and United States, the study will involve about 860 participants over five years.

As study chair, Dr. Bradley spends countless hours keeping everything on track. “My role is to monitor the trial to make sure everything is going as it should be. The key responsibilities are to maintain adequate recruitment and integrity of the study.”

A physician and scientist who also leads two sleep research labs in Toronto, Dr. Bradley has the advantage of previous experience, both with multi-centre and single-centre clinical trials. He’s also supported by “very good management personnel.”

And he’s motivated by a strong belief in the benefits of clinical trials.

“Clinical trials are the most important way to get treatments tested and to change clinical practice for the better of patient health. They are the most direct contact between medical science and practical outcomes for patients. That’s what gets me excited about clinical trials.”

Take the trial he’s leading. Dr. Bradley says it is “potentially historic” because it will show whether treating sleep apnea in heart failure patients can save lives and reduce hospitalization rates. The trial involves treating sleep apnea with adaptive servo ventilation (ASV) – a ‘smart’ device that provides air pressure through a mask worn over the nose during sleep. This keeps the throat open, preventing obstructive sleep apnea. For people with central sleep apnea, ASV starts up when breathing stops.

When it comes to conducting clinical trials, Ontario and Canada “have a sophisticated understanding of clinical trials” and a public health system that makes it easier to do clinical trials than in many other countries, says Dr. Bradley.

Streamlining the research ethics review process for global clinical trials – something Clinical Trials Ontario is doing – would enhance Ontario’s appeal, says Dr. Bradley. He currently deals with ethics review boards at each and every site involved in the same clinical trial.

“I think it’s a good thing that there is an initiative to streamline the ethics review process for initiating multi-centre clinical trials in Ontario,” he says. “It would certainly help to cut down on the administrative work you have do to get a trial going.”

Holder of the Clifford Nordal Chair in Sleep Apnea and Rehabilitation Research at Toronto Rehab, Dr. Bradley also holds appointments at the University of Toronto, Toronto General Hospital-University Health Network and Mount Sinai Hospital.