Pediatric Liver News
February 14, 2013
As a young child growing up in China, Hongxia Li suffered persistent pneumonia and staph infections, which led to several hospital visits. The care by one doctor impressed her so much that the idea of becoming a physician herself began to take hold for both her and her mother.
“My mom had this dream that I would be a doctor, a surgeon,” says Li.
But as Li reached her formative years, she gravitated more toward science than hands-on medicine. So after she graduated from China Medical University she came to the United States and began to accumulate seven years of experience in clinical research and epidemiology, learning the intricacies of data collection and analysis, protocol design and compliance, and patient screening and recruitment. Also, acquiring information technology skills and designing an information management system for the China HIV/ AIDS Information Network didn’t hurt.
“Learning information systems was a great asset to me in managing clinical trials, collecting data, and ensuring compliance with protocols and regulations,” says Li.
At both academic medical centers and pharmaceuticals, Li would go on to manage several Phase I, II and III clinical trials. Today, the Pediatric Liver Center is grateful for her skills in overseeing two Hepatitis B Research Network (HBRN) studies at Hopkins. One study, a 5-year observational study of pediatric patients with chronic hepatitis B virus (HBV), is evaluating the natural history of this infection with the goal of better understanding the factors associated with disease activation and progression. The second trial focuses on immune-tolerant children with HBV, who typically do well during childhood but who are at a high lifetime risk for liver cirrhosis and liver cancer. Single drugs have not worked well for these patients, so this trial is utilizing both Entecavir and Peginterferon.
“The question is, will this combination therapy be more effective than no treatment at all?” says Li. “Previous trials using similar combination therapies have shown the loss of hepatitis B E antigen in about one-quarter of patients.”
Pediatric Liver Center Director Kathy Schwarz says she feels “incredibly lucky” to have Li on board: “She is a fast learner and the combination of her medical education and experience managing clinical trials is invaluable. All of our patients and parents just love her for her gentle, caring ways. And for those whose first language is Mandarin, they are so happy to communicate directly with her.”
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