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Man helped by King’s liver trial encourages others to join

29 September 2023 - Liver disease research trial led by King's is inviting more people to volunteer and possibly benefit.

Each year in the UK, around 4,000 people die from cirrhosis, and 700 people with the condition need a liver transplant to survive.

The National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR) funded Beta blockers Or Placebo for Primary Prophylaxis of oesophageal varices in cirrhosis (BOPPP) trial is sponsored by King’s College Hospital NHS Foundation Trust.

The trial aims to establish whether complications from bleeding, fluid build-up, confusion, and infections can be prevented in cirrhosis patients by using a beta-blocker medication, carvedilol, commonly used to reduce blood pressure. The NIHR Clinical Research Network South London is helping to recruit volunteers for the BOPPP trial.

Cirrhosis is scarring of the liver caused by long-term liver damage. The scar tissue prevents the liver from working properly and causes pressure changes inside the abdomen. This causes the oesophagus veins to swell, which can lead to fatal bleeding and other life-threatening complications.

The trial is looking to include 740 patients who have liver cirrhosis and swelling of the veins in the oesophagus – referred to as ‘varices’ – from across the UK by December of this year.

An ex-builder who is living with liver cirrhosis has spoken about how a by product of taking part in this trial has transformed his outlook on life.

Lee Milan, 42, from Sevenoaks in Kent, is taking part in the BOPPP trial at King’s College Hospital NHS Foundation Trust. The BOPPP trial involves randomisation, so volunteers are randomly selected to take either carvedilol or placebo tablets, which are made to resemble carvedilol tablets. However, they do not contain any active drug.

Lee takes a tablet in the morning and evening, has regular blood tests and attends follow-up appointments at King’s College Hospital as part of his involvement in the trial.

The 42-year-old is urging others to take part in research to transform healthcare for future generations. He said:

“I’m taking each day as it comes, but I’m feeling in a good place mentally and trying to stay as healthy as possible.

“I worked in the building trade for over 25 years and on the project at Darent Valley Hospital in Kent when it was built in 2000. The team there referred me to King’s College Hospital for treatment, and I got involved in the BOPPP trial in August 2022. I will be on the trial until August 2025. The care I received initially from Darent Valley Hospital and the research team at King’s College Hospital has been outstanding. The research team has transformed my life and given me a positive outlook on living with a lifelong condition.

“The cirrhosis has caused me to lose a lot of my strength. I get tired quickly, too and struggle to sleep easily. However, I am trying to keep as active as possible. I also have plenty of support, and I know I can speak to my family or the BOPPP trial team at King’s College Hospital if I need help.

“This was my first time taking part in a research trial. I urge others to take part in research as you can help yourself, help others and improve things for future generations. You receive first-class care, everything is explained to you, and the BOPPP trial team has given me the peace of mind to live my life to the fullest.”

Dr Mark McPhail, who is a Consultant in Liver Critical Care at the Institute of Liver Studies at King’s College Hospital and Principal Investigator for the BOPPP trial, said:

“The BOPPP trial, which is still open and needs more volunteers, is vital to understanding more about effective treatments and interventions for patients with liver disease. The results of this trial will improve their quality of life and improve clinicians’ understanding of the disease, which can then support medical decisions for patients like Lee. I’m pleased that we have been able to help Lee, and I would like to thank him for his decision to get involved in the trial.”

Researchers are looking for people with liver cirrhosis and small oesophageal varices to take part in the BOPPP trial. To learn more about the BOPPP trial and how you can get involved, visit www.boppp-trial.org/