A distinguishing feature of PHRU is the methodological research it conducts to facilitate cost-efficient design of some of the world’s largest studies, including both randomized trials and prospective studies.
PHRU is one of the 5 Hubs which make up the MRC Network of Hubs for Trials Methodology Research (HTMR Network). The HTMR Network promotes and encourages collaborative methodological research relevant to trials, to accelerate implementation of the most effective and appropriate methods to improve the quality of trials and, ultimately, patient care.
PHRU staff have contributed to the development of IT systems that facilitate the conduct of large-scale clinical trials and observational studies. These systems are founded on, and enhanced by, our work in streamlining, focusing on those aspects that are most important to study quality: (a) recruitment of large numbers of eligible individuals; (b) data collection and study conduct; (c) study management, coordination and oversight; (d) laboratory management (including analysis and storage); (e) ascertainment, confirmation and classification of outcomes; and (f) analysis, reporting and dissemination.
In addition to its work on developing IT systems, PHRU staff have a key role in the work of the NDPH Wolfson Laboratories, an ‘in-house’ facility located within the Richard Doll Building, directed by Dr Michael Hill. These laboratories provide cost-effective support for large-scale prospective studies and randomized trials. They investigate, and provide guidance for, various aspects of methodology including: sample collection procedures for blood and urine; transportation procedures; stability of biomarkers; cataloguing and temperature controlled storage strategies for large-scale collections; and the development of assay methods that are suitable for high-throughput testing in large study populations without compromising the reliability or quality of the data produced.
The PHRU facilitates its research through statistical teams with extensive applied, computational and methodological expertise. These statistical teams, led by Professor Sarah Parish, work in close collaboration with clinicians and epidemiologists and take key roles in population studies, such as the China Kadoorie Biobank and prospective studies in Mexico and Cuba, as well as in large-scale randomized trials. These data resources provide unique opportunities to undertake research in vascular-related diseases (including heart disease, stroke, diabetes, obesity, dementia) and cancer, using epidemiological, genetic and other ‘omics’ techniques.