IBD research

UHS has an active research programme, investigating all aspects of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). Our research focuses on understanding the causes of Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, as well as offering new treatment options.

Why we do research

Research is needed to advance our understanding of IBD and allow new, potentially more effective treatments to be developed. Every drug that you are prescribed will have been through a research process. At UHS, research studies are an integral part of the care we deliver. If patients are suitable, we believe as many as possible should be offered the opportunity to participate in research studies.

What happens in a research study

If you are suitable to participate in a study, one of our research team will meet with you to discuss what the study involves. Our research is run through the Wellcome Trust Clinical Research Facility. The facility provides a dedicated suite of quiet clinic rooms and treatment areas for our research studies, away from the busy wards and outpatient clinic areas.

During your initial visit you will be provided with written information about the study and the options available to you. You will be given as much time as you need to discuss the study with family, friends or the rest of the IBD team. If you wish to participate you will be asked to sign a consent form, indicating you understand what the study involves.

Most studies will have a screening period, during which a few basic tests may be carried out. This is to ensure you are suitable for the study and to collect some baseline information. Each study will then involve a number of treatments or clinic visits over a specified time period. During this time you will have regular clinic visits or phone calls with our research doctor and nursing team. The research team are easily accessible and will be able to answer any questions or concerns you may have throughout the study. Often, your travelling and parking expenses will be reimbursed when you are participating in a trial.

Types of research carried out at UHS

We participate in studies investigating all aspects of IBD; our studies generally fall into one of three groups:

Basic science

This group helps us to understand the causes of IBD and we work closely with our colleagues from the University of Southampton. To help us with these studies, we may ask to collect some extra samples of your intestinal tissue when you have an endoscopy (camera test) carried out. You may also be asked if we can take an extra blood sample at the same time as your routine tests or clinic visit.

Pharmaceutical trials

These trials offer new treatments for IBD. Some of these are new drugs, whilst others are drugs already routinely used to treat patients with other conditions and are now being evaluated for IBD. For example, the UNITI study is investigating the use of a drug already used to treat psoriasis. Its use in Crohn’s disease is now being explored in a large worldwide study. There are a small number of hospitals in the UK offering this study, of which we are one.

By participating in a drug study you may have the opportunity to receive a new treatment not yet available in the routine clinic setting.

Questionnaire based studies

During some of your routine clinic visits you may be asked if you would like to participate in a questionnaire based study. Often these explore a patient's perception about their quality of life, attitudes to medication and their understanding of their condition. These usually involve completing an anonymous questionnaire.

Taking part in a research trial

Participating in a research trial does not affect the level of care you receive. The research team work closely with the rest of the IBD team and they will be kept informed of your progress in a study. Often a research trial can offer a new treatment that is not yet available from the outpatient clinic. Your GP will also be kept up to date with your participation in any trial.

Further information  

Your doctor will be able to discuss if any of our studies are suitable for you at your next clinic visit. Routinely, we have research studies suitable for almost every patient with inflammatory bowel disease. The research team will also be happy to discuss any of our studies with you.