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UTHSC/VA Researchers Part of Top 10 Award-Winning Clinical Trial

Leaders of the Memphis sites for the national SPRINT MIND clinical trial are, from left, Karen C. Johnson, MD, MPH; William Cushman, MD; Barry Wall, MD; Catherine Womack, MD; Linda Nichols, PhD; and Jennifer Martindale-Adams, EdD.

A multistate clinical trial that included researchers from the University of Tennessee Health Science Center and the Memphis Veterans Affairs Medical Center has been selected for one of the 2020 Top 10 Clinical Research Achievement Awards by the Clinical Research Forum.

The SPRINT MIND (Systolic Blood Pressure Intervention Trial Memory and Cognition IN Decreased Hypertension) study released findings in 2019 showing for the first time that intensive lowering of blood pressure reduced the risk of mild cognitive impairment, a known risk factor for dementia. The study, which included sites at approximately 102 medical centers and clinical practices throughout the United States and Puerto Rico, showed intensive blood pressure treatment with a goal of achieving a systolic blood pressure of 120, compared to the standard goal of 140, resulted in a 19 percent lower risk of mild cognitive impairment and a 15 percent lower risk of either mild cognitive impairment or dementia.

The SPRINT MIND trial was an ancillary study of the landmark Systolic Blood Pressure Intervention Trial (SPRINT), which was funded by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) to determine the best blood pressure for reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease. SPRINT enrolled more than 9,300 adults age 50 and older with hypertension who were at a high risk for cardiovascular disease. In August 2015, the SPRINT trial was stopped early, when the beneficial effects of intensive blood pressure management on mortality and cardiovascular disease were discovered. The findings spurred worldwide revision of the definition of hypertension and the clinical practice guidelines for treatment of high blood pressure.

Memphis hosted two SPRINT study sites, one at UTHSC and one at the  VA. Karen C. Johnson, MD, MPH, chair of the Department of Preventive Medicine and the College of Medicine Endowed Professor in Women’s Health, was the principal investigator for the UTHSC site, along with Catherine Womack, MD, associate dean for Student Affairs in the College of Medicine, a professor in the Department of Preventive Medicine, and co-chief of the Division of Internal Medicine at UTHSC.

William Cushman, MD, chief of Preventive Medicine at the Memphis VA and professor of Preventive Medicine, Medicine, and Physiology at UTHSC, served as the principal investigator for the VA Network. Barry Wall, MD, also from the Memphis VA, was the co-principal investigator for the SPRINT VA Clinical Center Network (CCN) and principal investigator for the VA Memphis SPRINT clinical site. Linda Nichols PhD, professor, and Jennifer Martindale-Adams, EdD, associate professor in the Department of Preventive Medicine at UTHSC, were VA CCN consultants and also co-investigators for the SPRINT MIND study.

The Clinical Research Forum, an organization that celebrates clinical research accomplishments in the United States, will honor the Top 10 research studies at the National Press Club in April. One study will receive the Herbert Pardes Clinical Research Excellence Award for research that best shows a high degree of innovation and creativity, advances science, and has an impact upon human disease.

“It’s an honor to be nominated to be one of the Top 10 clinical research studies, because that means you are doing really good work,” Dr. Johnson said. The primary results from the SPRINT MIND study were published in JAMA Network on January 28, 2019 and have been viewed by 71,205 people, downloaded 12,000 times, and cited 80 times.