World-first safety trial shows promising results for stroke treatment

The one in four Australians who suffer from stroke each year could be offered a new treatment in the future, thanks to a world-first safety trial underway from Monash Health, Hudson Institute of Medical Research and La Trobe University.

The trial, led by Associate Professor Henry Ma (Head of Neurology at Monash Health), Professor Thanh Phan (Head of Stroke at Monash Health), Associate Professor Rebecca Lim (Head of Amnion Cell Research at Hudson Institute of Medical Research) and Professor Chris Sobey (Co-Director of La Trobe University’s Research Centre for Cardiovascular Biology and Disease), has the ultimate goal to one day broaden the treatment options available for stroke patients.

“Stroke is the second-leading cause of death globally, and leaves a huge number of people with significant disability,” Prof Ma said.

“We have fantastic treatments for stroke such as endovascular clot retrieval and also clot-busting medications, but we know that for too many patients even these treatments are not enough. A significant number of patients may not have access to these therapies or they’re not possible due to circumstances.”

The trial is examining the safety of amniotic stem cells as a potential treatment for acute stroke patients, and has already shown encouraging results from the first two patients to participate in the trial at Monash Medical Centre.

The trial’s first patient, 67-year-old Kevin Baird, was left with significant speech problems and upper-limb weakness from a stroke in February. Since stem cells were administered 10 hours after the stroke occurred, Kevin has made incredible progress in his speech and movement. While it remains unknown whether the stem cells are a direct contribution to Kevin’s recovery, researchers are encouraged by his progress.

“We need to be very cautious and establish safety, first-and-foremost. That is the current trial’s focus,” said A/Prof Lim. “However we are extremely encouraged by the fact that Mr Baird’s brain tissue has shown such good outcomes.”

Prof Sobey agreed, saying that Mr Baird’s case meant their trial was attracting attention from major stroke centres around the world.

“It is a long process, but we are hopeful that this collaboration can contribute to the next great breakthrough in global stroke care, and prevent ongoing disability for patients.”

The Victorian Minister for Health, Jenny Mikakos, learned about the trial in a visit to Monash Medical Centre on Monday 1 April.

“I commend these researchers for searching out new ways to protect us against the too often devastating impact of stroke and look forward to seeing where this promising research leads,” the Minister said.

“Victoria is a world leader in ground-breaking health and medical research and is home to some of the world’s best clinicians, scientists and researchers. We’re leading the way in breakthrough discoveries to fast-track new treatments and save the lives of more people at home and around the world.”