Celebrating Clinical Trials Day with fantastic patient stories

Heather becomes the first in the North West to take part in new drug trial for patients with chronic migraines

For many, headaches and migraines are an annoyance but for others they represent crippling pain and life-changing effects. Heather Dixon, 57, from Southport is one of those whose life has been significantly impacted by migraines. A patient at The Walton Centre since 2017 she has been suffering from migraines and headaches for over 40 years.

After trying countless treatments, she is now the first patient in the north-west and only the third in the country to be recruited onto a trial looking at the effectiveness and safety of Erenumab with patients who are suffering with chronic migraines, and with medication overuse headaches. 

“It’s been a long slog since I started experiencing migraines in my teens, but after trying different treatments it finally feels like there is light at the end of the tunnel with this trial,” says Heather.

“Knowing you’re on a trial specifically looking at your condition gives you such hope that it could make a real difference, not just to me but to others in my situation.

“When I met Dr Nick Silver in 2019 at The Walton Centre, I was at the end of my tether but the support and guidance he and the team at the Neuroscience Research Centre have given me has been a lifeline. I can’t speak highly enough of the team and the work they do. They see you not just as a patient, but as a person and are just lovely – I actually look forward to coming here every month for my injections!”


“If people don’t take part in trials, we don’t learn anything.” Rob Fairhurst has been on a trial for Multiple Sclerosis for eight years to help find new treatment

Rob has been on the drug Ocrelizumab since 2013 as part of the Oratorio trial, which has been attempting to further understand the long-term and short-term effects on patients and their Multiple Sclerosis (MS).

For the best part of a decade Rob has been having a series of infusions and check-ups to monitor his condition, which was diagnosed six months prior to joining the study.

“At the time my balance was terrible and I was getting dizzy spells” Rob said. “I remember I was on a business trip in Germany with colleagues, and on the walk back I had to hold on to parked cars to stay upright. They thought I was drunk!”

The 55 year old, from Skelmersdale, was referred to The Walton Centre for an MRI scan, which later confirmed a diagnosis of MS. The trust’s Neurosciences Research Centre quickly assessed that Rob qualified to take part in the Oratorio trial, which started in 2011.

Rob said: “It wasn’t a hard decision at all. I wanted to take part, and the added reassurance of regular check-ups from specialists was a good enough reason before even considering the benefits of the infusion. If people don’t take part in trials, we don’t learn anything. You have to take part so that safe new drugs and treatments can be discovered.”

Research Nurse Sarah Illingworth said: “I think Rob says it all. Taking part in clinical trials can feel scary and unknown, but it can be really straight-forward. Some trials take years to complete, and we will be with you every step of the way to take care of you and support you through each stage of your treatment. It can feel exhilarating at times working with patients on new treatments which could potentially give them better prospects.”

Rob said: “My friends and family think I’m brave taking part in a clinical trial, but when there’s nothing else effective enough to slow the progression of my MS, how could I not take part? The research team at The Walton Centre are excellent. From the very first nurse to take care of me eight years ago to now. They have been friends throughout this, ready to support me.”