The FASTER Research Consortium is one of the most successful and productive multicentre clinical research groups in the field of obstetrics. Funded by the National Institutes for Health for a total of over $13 million, through its National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, this consortium consists of 15 major academic medical centres and a laboratory centre in the United States, as well as statistics and analysis centres in Ireland and the United Kingdom. Prof. Fergal Malone at RCSI is the co-principal investigator of this consortium, and is the director of the FASTER Scientific and Publications Committee.
FASTER was designed to evaluate a range of screening and diagnostic tests performed at various stages in pregnancy that provide reassurance to patients regarding the health of their fetus. Over 38,000 patients were recruited in early gestation, were followed throughout pregnancy and detailed outcome information was obtained on both pregnancy and paediatric outcomes. A range of blood tests and ultrasound examinations were performed. This allowed for a direct comparison of the effectiveness of various first and second trimester screening tests for Down syndrome and other fetal abnormalities.
The principal results of the FASTER Trial were published as the lead article in the November 10 2005 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine. These results are currently being used to help optimise prenatal care for pregnant patients throughout the United States and Europe. The results have also formed the basis for a new national screening service available at the RCSI Fetal Medicine Centre at the Rotunda Hospital for pregnant patients throughout Ireland. As well as evaluating tests for fetal health during pregnancy, the FASTER investigators currently collaborate with a large number of multidisciplinary researchers throughout the United States and Europe, evaluating diverse issues such as thyroid hormone problems during pregnancy, predicting risks for preeclampsia during pregnancy, and studying new biomarkers for fetal and maternal health from the extensive FASTER biobank.
The FASTER Consortium has published over 20 major research papers and over 50 scientific abstracts in the areas of clinical obstetrics and prenatal diagnosis. Some of these major contributions to international best practices in obstetrics are available for review below: