A team of UNM Health Sciences Center researchers plan to implement a study that they hope will determine which treatment model works best for patients afflicted with Hepatitis C.

According to a UNM HSC press release, the study is part of a national effort that aims to determine “why some patients develop resistance to certain therapies for the treatment of Hepatitis C.”

The study will be funded by the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI), UNMHSC officials said.

PCORI recently awarded a five-year, $14 million grant to Montefiore Health System and the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York to administer the study, according to the statement.

UNM will receive $2.3 million as one of eight partner sites that include Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University, Harvard Medical School, University of California, San Francisco and others, according to the HSC press release.

Katherine Wagner, project director and coordinator for the PCORI study, said that the study will look at different treatment delivery method options to see which works best for Hepatitis C patients.

“We are going to be doing one arm, which is directly observed therapy where somebody comes into the clinic and receives their medication on a mostly daily basis and somebody actually watches them take care of their health,” she said. “The other delivery method will be patient navigators, so the patient will be working with a navigator to make their appointments, get their treatment schedules worked out, but the patients will have their medications themselves and they will take it on their own outside the clinic.”

Wagner said that the researchers will observe which of the two methods really helps the patient improve.

The study will specifically target people who inject substances. 

“They are a population who have a high rate of Hepatitis C and they are usually overlooked," she said.

UNMHSC is receiving funding for the initial five years of the study, she said. However, the researchers have asked for an extension to the study so that they could follow patients for a little longer.

Wagner said she hopes to start the project on Aug.1, 2016 and that the team will, initially, they will enroll 125 people for the project.

“We are really excited for this study," she said. "We are happy to be able to offer treatment to people who usually don’t get this opportunity.” 

Kimberly Page, a professor in the UNM Department of Internal Medicine and chief of the Division of Epidemiology, Biostatistics and Preventive Medicine, said the idea of the study was discussed by the team members in detail.

“This idea has been floated around by many people in the field for some time," she said. "It was about bringing together a lot of super stars in the field and moving it forward."

She said that New Mexico is highly impacted by Hepatitus C and has some of the highest burden of infection in the country. She was confident that the infection can be defeated with the help of the existing clinical structure in the state.

“New Mexico also has an amazing clinical structure that we can use to address this problem effectively. Actually, New Mexico could be a leader in the field,” she said.

Sayyed Shah is assistant news editor at the Daily Lobo. He can be contacted at assistant-news@dailylobo.com or on Twitter @mianfawadshah.