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23 January 2018

Each year roughly 50,000 Australians will suffer a stroke. Recent advances in medical techniques to restore blood supply to the brain (e.g. clot busting medications) have significantly reduced the risk of death, or significant disability following a stroke, but are only effective if given within 4.5 hours of suffering a stroke.

Currently there are no blood tests for stroke, and patients must undergo specialist assessment leading to significant delays in treatment. As a result, fewer than 10 per cent of eligible patients receive treatment within the effective time window.

We have analysed data from laboratory models and patients and identified a group of blood-borne molecules which rapidly change following stroke onset. We believe that these molecules have the potential to act as biomarkers which can be easily measured to quickly determine whether a patient has or has not suffered a stroke. Such a test would enable doctors to administer treatment more rapidly, thereby improving outcomes for stroke affected patients and their families.

Contact us

Phone: 4781 4109


Project timeline: August 2017 - December 2020


Who can participate?

People who are believed to be suffering from a stroke who present to The Townsville Hospital (TTH).

What does this study involve?

This study aims to answer three questions:

  • Can our blood markers be used to rapidly diagnose stroke in patients presenting to hospital?
  • Can our blood markers be used to predict how well a patient recovers from their stroke?
  • Could improvements in medical care made possible by our blood tests reduce the economic burden imposed on stroke patients and their families?

To answer these questions, we plan to meet participants at the time of their presentation to hospital. For some, a follow-up visit at 3 months will also be required. At each of these meetings, we will collect a blood sample. Participants and their families will also be asked about their medical history, and will also receive a questionnaire enquiring about out-of-pocket expenses experienced as a result of their stroke.

What risks are involved?

This trial will not alter any aspect of the patient’s normal medical care. We therefore do not anticipate patients to be at any additional risk as a result of participating in this trial.

How can participants sign up?

Potential participants who arrive at TTH with a suspected stroke will be approached by a member of the study team to ask whether they would be interested in joining the study. In some instances, patients may not be able to enroll themselves, and the patient’s family may then be approached. We appreciate that this may be a difficult choice, and emphasise that the patient’s medical care will not be affected by this decision. Participants are free to withdraw from the study at any time.


Why do I need to provide a blood sample, and what will be done with it?

To test our research questions, it is vital that we transport your blood samples to a James Cook University research laboratory where the blood tests will be conducted. We are very interested in the performance of the blood tests at the time of stroke, and during recovery, and this is why we wish to collect samples at separate visits. The blood samples will be stored in a biobank – a secure library of biological specimens from patients which will allow us to protect the integrity of the sample for later analysis. It is possible that our research will identify other potential biomarkers to assess, and for this reason we will request permission to store your samples for future studies. Participants are free to withdraw their samples from the biobank at any time, with no impact on their clinical care, or relationship with their treating doctors.

What other information is being collected?

We seek permission to collect and analyse some information from your patient file, including a list of the medications you are taking, demographic details (e.g. age, sex), results from other blood tests taken during your stay in hospital (e.g. cholesterol assessments), and the type of healthcare services that you use. This information will be collected automatically from the hospital and other healthcare providers, and will not add any more inconvenience to the process.

This information is important as it will allow us to better assess the blood tests by taking into account other medical conditions which might influence our results. All data are stored in a secure database which can only be accessed by the study team.

The team

  • Dr Joseph Moxon - Principal researcher
  • Professor Jonathan Golledge
  • Dr Richard White
  • A/Professory Emiy Callander
  • Dr Alex Trollope
  • Miss Georgina Anderson
  • Mrs Jenna Pinchbeck
  • Mrs Cindy Matthews

Most (~80 per cent) strokes result from a blockage in a blood vessel which stops the supply of blood to the brain. If the blood supply to the brain is not restored, brain cells become damaged, and eventually die. Dead brain cells appear as a damaged area of the brain called an ‘infarction’, and larger infarctions are generally associated with higher risks of death or significant disability. This damage can be limited by restoring blood supply to the brain, although the time window to achieve best results is extremely narrow.

Stroke also imparts a significant financial burden. Data suggest that roughly 70 per cent of stroke survivors suffer a disability which is significant enough to impact on their ability to undertake paid work. Family members may also be required to change their working practices to help care for the stroke patient, placing an additional financial strain on the family. This is particularly relevant for rural and remote areas such as North Queensland, where travel to visit hospitals and specialists may also incur additional costs. The financial burden experienced by stroke patients and their families has not been well investigated. Study into this area is needed to identify mechanisms by which stroke patients and their families can be better supported.