The Preterm Trials Consortium: using long-term trials to answer difficult questions

Prof Andrew Shennan, Dr Jenny Carter, Dr Helena Watson, Prof Rachel Tribe

Tommy’s is setting up a platform that will help researchers study premature birth more effectively.

Why do we need this research?

Research into premature birth is a tricky task. To get results that you can trust, you need long trials that look at large numbers of people. If an illness is rare, or it is difficult to find people to take part in research, it can be hard to test which treatments work best. To make things harder, a lot of funding for research is given for relatively short periods of time: often too short to find meaningful answers, or understand long-term effects. Tommy’s want to change this, so that we can tackle the questions that need answering, and make sure that every baby is born safely.

What’s happening in this project?

We recently supported a study that lasted eight years to test whether the cervical stitch helped women with cervical problems carry their babies to full term. The MAVRIC study was a success, but showed us that to answer questions like this, we need big studies over long periods.

The lessons from the MAVRIC study led to our researchers to set up the Preterm Trials Consortium (PTC). This collaboration between many research centres is designed to help researchers recruit large numbers of women to lots of studies and following them for long periods. By setting this up, scientists can do more to find answers to the many difficult questions still surrounding premature birth.

As part of PTC, our researchers created a database where anonymous information from women who take part in clinical trials could be stored and shared with scientists around the world. The PTC database with went live in December 2016, with 14 centres currently collecting data for this project. So far, 2,641 women have given permission for their data to be stored on the platform, including some women from outside the UK. We hope to see more research centres join the platform in the near future.

Examples of questions that the PTC might try to answer include:

  • If the cervical stitch can help women who have ‘bulging membranes’ – when the sac of fluids surrounding the baby pushes out a little through the cervix. This increases the risk of a woman’s waters breaking early, and can lead to premature birth if it happens early in pregnancy
  • When to remove the cervical stitch in women whose waters have broken
  • The best way to deliver a premature baby that is positioned to come out feet first 

What difference will this project make?

The Preterm Trials Consortium will enable high-quality long-term research to take place. This is necessary to answer some of the big questions we still have around premature birth. The answers to these questions will enable us to predict and prevent babies from being born too early.

Get our research updates

Tommy's funds research across the UK investigating the reasons for pregnancy complications and loss. If you're interested in being kept updated about our research and news from Tommy's, click here.

Read Tommy's news and views

  • A nurse taking a patients blood pressure in a hospital room


    Pregnancy is a unique chance to predict health risks to mums

    A recently published article, co-authored by Professor Catherine Williamson from Tommy’s Research Centre at King’s College London, suggests that certain pregnancy complications can indicate future health issues for women.

  • Rising demand for Tommy's midwives in coronavirus lockdown


    Tommy’s awarded grant to help meet rising demand for support during coronavirus lockdown

    Tommy’s has received a grant from the UK Government’s Department for Health and Social Care to support the costs of its PregnancyHub information and support services throughout the summer, due to rising demand in the wake of coronavirus.

  • Tommy's researchers latest findings


    Tommy’s Research Centres continue vital work on pregnancy complications

    Although recruitment to some clinical trials had to be paused when coronavirus hit the UK, scientists at Tommy’s Research Centres across the UK are still hard at work, supporting women and families in our specialist clinics and sharing their latest studies with academic journals.

  • Blog

    Miscarriage during lockdown

    The day before Mother’s Day, and two days before the UK officially went into coronavirus lockdown, Zara Dawson found out she was having a miscarriage. Her third consecutive miscarriage in less than a year, and fourth consecutive loss, after losing her second son Jesse in 2018 to termination for medical reasons.

    Was this information useful?

    Yes No