WCN - Dutch Network for Cardiovascular Research
Founded in 1988, the Working group on Cardiovascular research the Netherlands (WCN) is an independent network organization of 57 cardiac clinics in The Netherlands. The WCN is an established partner to major pharmaceutical companies in the area of clinical research. All WCN clinics have academic research backgrounds and are widely experienced in international trials. As an organization, WCN monitors implementation of Good Clinical Practice and quality control. The WCN aims (1) to perform multi-centre clinical research in cardiovascular medicine for the pharmaceutical industry, non-profit research institutes and clinical research organizations, and (2) to be an associate in these projects from initial trial design up to the final details of execution, including ethics and regulatory affairs.
Mode of operation
Information concerning active and future projects is sent to the WCN central office in Utrecht. The WCN works according to Standard Operating Procedures which guarantees reliability and high standards of quality and speed.
Every research proposal from the pharmaceutical industry, independent research organizations or individual WCN centres is reviewed by the Board before being presented to the WCN members. Strict adherence to quality requirements, self-imposed by the WCN members to insure a smooth execution of every project, is thereby guaranteed. Furthermore all core laboratory facilities are available within the WCN. If appropriate a dedicated CRO can be appointed for a project. If the WCN decides to participate in a project a selection of participating centres will be made by the Committee of Centres Selection. For each trial that is submitted to and accepted by the WCN, a dedicated WCN member cardiologist (with usually special interest and or experience for the objective) is appointed as study director. He will be the representative for all the WCN participants during the trial and functions as a contact person between the WCN and the sponsor. The study director monitors the progression as well as the quality of the ongoing study, which will ensure that the trial will be completed without unnecessary delays.
Each centre will be judged during and after the trial for quality issues, such as protocol violations. By discussing quality with each individual centre, it is possible to reach high standards.
Cooperation with the pharmaceutical industry
With respect to pharmaceutical industry initiated trials the WCN
- offers the possibility to have protocols reviewed in an early phase, the focus of this review is on practical feasibility;
- is able to make accurate estimates on the number of patients that can be recruited in a given time period;
- has organized itself in a structure that makes it possible to detect problems with patient recruitment or trial execution in an early phase and, if necessary, to give advice with respect to these issues;
- understands the necessity of conducting trials within the pre-set time windows and has organized itself accordingly. Besides its contribution to operational quality, the WCN aims to contribute to the scientific quality of a trial as well. In general a member of the WCN is appointed as a member of the Steering Committee of the trial. The study director or the representative of the WCN in the Steering Committee is usually one of the authors of the publication of the results of the trial.
Cooperation with other institutes
At various levels, the WCN collaborates with the NVVC (Netherlands Society of Cardiology) and the ICIN (Interuniversity Cardiology Institute the Netherlands). Sometimes the WCN collaborates with foreign partners, such as the TIMI, Yusuf and DUKE group and the NIH. Pharmaceutical clients can be assured that all available resources and knowledge will be put to optimal use.
Field of interest
The primary interest of the WCN is in the field of phase II, III and well designed phase IV clinical research trials, specifically in the following areas:
- Acute Coronary Syndromes with ST-segment elevation (ACS STEMI)
- Acute Coronary Syndromes with non-ST-segment elevation (ACS non STEMI)
- thrombosis, atherothrombosis
- heart failure
- diabetes and cardiovascular disease
- hypercholesterolemia, dyslipidemia
- interventional cardiology
- ICD, CRT
- prevention of cardiac failure
- dyslipidemia, primary and secondary prevention
Every participating clinic is equipped with at least:
- standard electrocardiography
- exercise electrocardiography
- 24-hour ambulatory (Holter ECG) electrocardiography
- coronary angiography
- Doppler echocardiography
- nuclear cardiology
- CT scan
- pacemaker implantation facilities
A number of participating clinics is also equipped with:
- cardiopulmonary exercise test (VO2 max)
- cardiac surgery and angioplasty
- cardiopulmonary surgery
For many years now the WCN organizes an annual congress for Dutch cardiologists. Because cardiology is one of the fields in medicine in which an enormous progress has been shown, emphasis is laid on both practical issues and future developments. In special courses the local staff, nurses, residents and other co-workers from each centre are taught and trained in GCP, statistics, pharmacology and new developments concerning handling E-CRF etc.
The WCN provides training and refreshing courses for research professionals in cardiovascular research. This program is set up in subject specific modules and adjusted to the daily practice and to the interests, needs and preferences of the students.
The WCN guides and supports the local staff of the participating centres with the sometimes complicated approval process from the Central Medical Ethical Committee, the board, and the local ethics committee of the institute. By doing so, this time consuming process will be expedited.