University of Pittsburgh Removes Geographic Limits For Patients in New Clinical Trial

By: Beth Mausteller

The University of Pittsburgh has launched a clinical trial for patients diagnosed with myositis and interstitial lung disease, which is unique in that patients can participate from anywhere in the country, expanding access and increasing the ease of participation.   

“We’re changing the paradigm for those living with this rare and often debilitating condition,” said Dr. Rohit Aggarwal, principal investigator, co-director of UPMC Myositis Center, and professor of medicine in Pitt’s Division of Rheumatology and Clinical Immunology. “Instead of the patient coming to our center in Pittsburgh, we’re taking the study to the patient’s home, regardless of where they live.”     

With a tablet and devices provided to the participants, they can monitor blood pressure, oxygen levels and lung function remotely.  Physician and coordinator visits are also remote, done through telemedicine.  

For patients like Marlene Roberts, that means she doesn’t have to travel from her home in West Virginia to Pittsburgh. “Normally, I’d drive three hours each way for an appointment,” Roberts said.  “Now, I have the equipment and do the tests at home twice a week. It takes me less than five minutes.” 

Myositis interstitial lung disease is a rare autoimmune condition that causes inflammation and muscle weakness and can lead to scarring or fibrosis of the lung. Patients have difficulty with activities involved in daily living. Roberts gave up the job she loved in home health care, because of her symptoms.  “I went through the grieving process, and now I’m looking at the brighter side and hope this trial makes a difference.” 

Researchers are recruiting patients from around the country through various channels, including outreach through patient support organizations, physicians and social media. The study is funded through a $10 million grant from Boehringer Ingelheim, a biopharmaceutical company that focuses on areas of high unmet medical need.  

Read more about this trial here.  Dr. Aggarwal may be reached at