Prince of Wales Hospital secures $750,000 grant for world-first stroke study

"Professor Ken Butcher, Director Clinical Neuroscience, Prince of Wales Hospital and Professor of Neurology at the University of NSW, has been successful in securing a $750,000 research grant under the NSW Government’s Cardiovascular Disease Senior Scientist Grants Scheme.

The significant funding grant will allow a three-year research project, the first of its kind in the world, to be established to investigate how we can treat more patients suffering from ischaemic stroke (which is caused by blood clots and is the most common form of stroke) living in regional and remote areas and at the same time extend their treatment options.

“This study will allow us to use an advanced form of brain imaging, known as CT perfusion, to predict who will respond to therapy even after presenting after 4.5 hours from onset, and who will not. Therefore we can select patients for the study that we can measure the most effective response to treatment for – be that ‘clot-busting’ therapy known as tenecteplase, or the standard treatment of aspirin,” Professor Butcher said.

“Our research will be the first to show that clot-busters, which can be injected into the vein, can be used safely and effectively in patients presenting to hospital more than 4.5 hours after onset, traditionally deemed to be too advanced for treatment. We hope to prove it can be effectively administered up to 24 hours after the onset of stroke.

"This will allow treatment of a group of stroke patients who currently have no options available to them, including many who live in rural or regional areas, and are not close to a major hospital.”

The pilot funding will allow for the recruitment initially of 150 patients and a full-time UNSW Research Co-ordinator. This will be done as a multi-centre trial with the inclusion of clinical and research leads from Prince of Wales Hospital, St George Hospital, John Hunter Hospital, Liverpool Hospital, The George Institute, The University of Melbourne and the Royal Melbourne Hospital.

“The results of this study will have the potential to change guidelines and treatment approaches almost immediately, so we think it is immensely important.”

Stroke is the leading cause of adult disability and the third leading cause of death in Australia. In NSW, approximately 1 in 100 people over the age of 75 are hospitalised for stroke every year.

“Given ischaemic stroke accounts for around 85 per cent of all strokes, research into treatment options in this area is vital. The ultimate goal is to close the treatment gap by having a more standardised approach to patients based on their imaging results rather than the time they presented to hospital."

“The longer-term goal of this study is to establish NSW as a national and international hub for translational stroke research.”

Originally from Alberta, Canada, where he was a tenured Professor of Neurology at the University of Alberta, Professor Butcher was recently appointed in his dual Clinical and Research roles in what he says is a direct result of closer ties between Prince of Wales Hospital and UNSW in recognition of a need to increase the clinical academic footprint of the health and education precinct, especially in light of the redevelopment of the precinct already well underway.

Professor Butcher with CT Scanner