Medical research: The ones to watch in 2024

The medical journal Nature Medicine has featured 11 clinical trials that are likely to have an impact on medicine in 2024. This year’s feature highlights include an app allowing women with no prior experience to help other women in the community who have major depression during pregnancy, potential vaccines against HIV and malaria, stem cell therapies, cancer trials (including a melanoma study containing Aussie data), and, of course, AI. 

Media release

From: Springer Nature

Nature Medicine: 11 clinical trials that will shape medicine in 2024

11 clinical trials that are likely to have an impact on medicine in the coming year are presented in Nature Medicine’s annual feature.

“This year’s list highlights first-in-human therapeutics, such as base editing, new vaccines and stem cells, along with AI algorithms, an app, immunotherapy and more. These are potentially exciting treatments, but only through these trials can researchers know whether they will benefit patients,” says Ben Johnson, Senior Magazine Editor at Nature Medicine.

The use of artificial intelligence (AI) features prominently on the list, as whilst many possibilities have been raised (or similar), few such tools have been tested in clinical trials. The MARS-ED clinical trial is assessing the benefits of an AI model to help to predict the 31-day mortality risk of patients who sought treatment at an emergency department. Separately, an ongoing trial of 150,000 patients in six UK hospitals is testing if AI can help identify chest X-rays from patients who could benefit from a same-day computed tomography (CT) scan for early diagnosis of lung cancer.

Further cancer trials highlighted in the list include 4-IN-THE-LUNG-RUN, which will compare whether screening every 2 years for lung cancer (using CT scans) is as effective at preventing cancer deaths as yearly tests, for those with no abnormalities at their first scan. The efficacy and safety of trastuzumab deruxtecan (Enhertu), an antibody–drug conjugate that targets HER2 in breast cancer, is also being assessed in participants with or without brain metastasis. Finally, the NADINA trial aims to compare the efficacy of neoadjuvant ipilimumab plus nivolumab (two types of immunotherapy) with that of adjuvant nivolumab in stage III melanoma.

Turning to mental health, an app is being assessed that allows a woman with no prior experience in healthcare delivery to deliver a cognitive-therapy-based intervention to other women in the community in the second or third trimester of pregnancy who have major depression. This trial will compare the app with the standard face-to-face version of Thinking Healthy Programme therapy delivered by community health workers in rural Pakistan. A further mental health trial, the Best Services Trial, will investigate the efficacy and cost-effectiveness of an intervention model for infant mental health relative to the usual social work services for children 0–5 years of age in foster care in Glasgow and London, UK.

Vaccines are also featured, including a trial of VIR-1388, which is a vaccine against human immunodeficiency virus, and a trial of a vaccine against clinical malaria in African children 5–36 months of age in Burkina Faso, Kenya, Tanzania and Mali.

Also highlighted are the STEM-PD trial, in which dopaminergic neurons derived from human embryonic stem cells will be transplanted into the brains of patients 50–75 years of age who have moderate Parkinson’s disease. And the heart-1 trial is studying if DNA base editing has potential as a treatment for durable lowering of LDL cholesterol in patients with a form of hypercholesterolemia that is caused genetically.

“The trials highlighted demonstrate the breadth of research taking place and the myriad ways researchers are attempting to tackle issues of global importance. Researchers, regulators, doctors, patients — and Nature Medicine — will all be watching these trials closely to see if the treatments are safe and effective,” says Johnson.

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