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A team of Hamilton researchers have been awarded the 15th annual David Sackett Trial of the Year Award, presented by the Society for Clinical Trials. The award was given in recognition of the team’s work on the international TOGETHER trial, which aimed to identify potential COVID-19 therapeutics.

“The TOGETHER trial was planned to be adaptive in design to investigate the potential effects of different drugs for being repurposed to prevent severe outcomes among COVID out-patients with mild symptoms,” said Lehana Thabane, lead statistician on the TOGETHER trial and Vice President, Research at St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton.

The award is named after David Sackett, a pioneer in evidence-based medicine. In 1967, Sackett founded the Department of Clinical Epidemiology and Biostatistics at McMaster, which was officially renamed as the Department of Health Research Methods, Evidence, and Impact (HEI) in 2017. It was the first department of its kind at a Canadian university.

The Society for Clinical Trials presents the David Sackett Trial of the Year Award annually to a trial team that best fulfills a set of rigorous standards. The winning trial must:

  • improve the lot of humankind;
  • provide basis for a substantial, beneficial change in health care;
  • reflect expertise in subject matter, excellence in methodology, and concern for study participants;
  • overcome obstacles in implementation;
  • and the presentation of its design, execution, and results is a model of clarity and intellectual soundness.

The TOGETHER trial has evaluated 16 medications for their efficacy in COVID-19, and the trial is being expanded to assess repurposing of existing medicines against other types of respiratory viruses.

“One of the hallmarks of Dave Sackett's legacy was cultivating a culture of authentic collaborations in generating the best evidence to inform clinical decisions,” Thabane added. “That's what the TOGETHER trial is about – a collaboration among stakeholders that include physicians, biostatisticians, methodologists, funders, patients, and policy makers in Brazil, Canada, USA, South Africa, and many other countries – in pursuit of pragmatic evidence to address one of the greatest challenges of our lifetime.”

Thabane explained that it was befitting for the TOGETHER team to receive this award, which is named after a man who was a champion of clinical trials and who was dedicated to nurturing partnerships in the search for evidence-based solutions for health problems using rigorous methods. 

“It is even more exciting that the trial was designed in the department he founded, by some of his protégés and their mentees,” said Thabane, who is also a professor in the department of Health Research Methods, Evidence, and Impact.

Co-investigators from McMaster include Gordon Guyatt, Kristian Thorlund, Jay Park, and Sheila Sprague, senior research staff Paula McKay and Jamie Forest, and co-principal investigator Edward Mills.

“David was a remarkable clinical scientist who changed the way that medicine is practiced. Chief among his contributions was his recognition of the need to partner with colleagues, both junior and senior, giving them the recognition and mentorship that they deserved,” said Mills.

Funding for the trial was provided by the FTX Foundation, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, FastGrants, and the Rainwater Charitable Foundation.


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