International study to help severe eczema sufferers opens

Pictured (left to right, from back to front) is LRH's Jen Breheny and Ian Fraser from the Research and Clinical Trials unit with Alfred Health's Prof Johannes Kern, trial participant Peter Manzie, and dermatology trial team, Dr Charlotte Krones and Frances Burns. Photo: Contributed

THE latest treatment for Gippslanders who suffer from severe eczema is now available locally thanks to a recently-opened dermatology clinical trial.

The trial, which is also currently running in the US and Canada, is testing a new treatment for moderate to severe eczema.

Latrobe Regional Health (LRH) is the first non-metro hospital in the world to open this trial, which has been made possible by sharing care together with The Alfred Hospital through a new model called a teletrial.

A teletrial is where hospitals and health care providers work together as one team to deliver the same clinical trial across more than one hospital.

The model means regional and rural patients can access clinical trials closer to home, reducing the mental and financial burden of often having to travel hours to metro centres for treatment.

This is the first dermatology clinical trial to open in the region. Local staff have been given the opportunity to be upskilled by The Alfred Hospital’s dermatology team who will also oversee care throughout the clinical trial.

Patients will still have to travel to Melbourne for some appointments, but the majority of care is closer to home thus reducing travel.

LRH General Manager of Research and Partnerships Dr Jhodie Duncan said the teletrial model has enabled the hospital to open more and more trials that can give locals access to potentially life-saving treatment and improved quality of life without having to travel to Melbourne.

“This is a relatively new model for us in Victoria, but we hope to embed it into our practice as it enhances our ability to provide better care for regional patients,” Dr Duncan said.

“Teletrials give us an opportunity to open clinical trials that we may not have the capacity to run on our own.”

The trial is being overseen by Alfred Health’s Head of Dermatology, Professor Johannes Kern.

“This is a chronic, life-long disease that can significantly impact a person’s quality of life. Despite available treatment options, not all patients with moderate-to-severe atopic dermatitis respond sufficiently to current treatments, and many continue to suffer. We are thrilled at the possibility of uncovering the latest treatment, and that for the first-time, regional patients can now participate without having to come into The Alfred for the entire clinical trial. This is an incredible milestone not only for patients in Gippsland, but it shows what is now possible for other regional patients across Australia,” Prof Kern said.

Clinical trials give people access the latest treatment well before they are available to the general public.

If you would like to be considered for this trial or to learn more about other available trials, go to or email

Since 2020, LRH has been part of the TrialHub program, a federal government-funded pilot based at The Alfred Hospital that is supporting regional and rural hospitals set up their own independent clinical trial units so patients don’t have to travel to Melbourne.

TrialHub is providing LRH with on-going funding as well as operational and workforce support.