Funding boost to research debilitating fatigue in stroke survivors

Jun 29 2020

More than $1 million has been announced by the Federal Government to support researchers investigating how to combat the most common and severely debilitating, however vastly undertreated, side effect of stroke – fatigue.

Affecting up to 70 per cent of stroke survivors, fatigue encompasses a lack of energy and inability to exert effort that develops during physical or mental activity, which is not improved by any amount of rest. The impact negatively affects a survivors’ ability to return to work, exercise, enjoy engaging with family and community and many other elements which contribute to overall quality of life.

Led by internationally renowned stroke researcher, Conjoint Professor Christopher Levi, a specialist team from across Australia and the UK will further explore the use of a common drug used to treat sleep disorders in the long-term recovery of stroke survivors. “Stroke is the leading cause of adult disability in the developed world. However, there are no pharmaceutical therapies available beyond the acute period to improve the outcome or quality of life for survivors,” Professor Levi said. “Of stroke survivors, 30 per cent are under 65 – of working age – and 65 per cent of all stroke survivors suffer a disability which impedes their ability to carry out the activities of daily living. “The long-term impacts of stroke remain under-researched; however, our previous work has shown an encouraging correlation between a daily dose of Modafinil and the significant reduction in fatigue. “If successful, the new trial will provide evidence for a post stroke intervention which will have a major impact on the long-term health of stroke patients, their family and community,” he said.

University of Newcastle Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Professor Janet Nelson, said the research was crucial to ensure the improved quality of life of stroke survivors.
“This support for key research in stroke recovery provides an opportunity for Australia to lead the world in discovering an effective intervention for one of the most prevalent and disabling complications of stroke,” she said. “I send huge congratulations to the entire team dedicating themselves to this important cause, which will not only improve health outcomes for our communities here in Australia, but around the world.”  

The Greater Charitable Foundation, which funded the initial trial phases of Modafinil and recently committed a further $180,000 to shift the trial to a telehealth model, also welcomed the announcement. “Congratulations to Professor Chris Levi, Associate Professor Andrew Bivard and the team,” Foundation CEO Anne Long said. “The Foundation provided seed funding of $370,000 over three years for the Phase 3 clinical trial in August 2017 along with the additional $180,000.

“We are proud to know our grants have helped enable the team to secure vital Federal Government funding for this outstanding research which is truly improving life outcomes for stroke patients.”

“Teams of researchers have been working on this project at HMRI for a number of years, with generous seed funding from the Greater Charitable Foundation,” HMRI Director, Professor Tom Walley, added. “We know that fatigue is a serious problem for many people living with stroke, this project shows great promise in reducing fatigue and enabling better quality of life after stroke.” 

The trial, Reducing debilitating fatigue after stroke to improve Quality of Life, was among 10 national neurological projects to receive a total of $21.8 million from the Medical Research Future Fund (MRFF).

The research team comprises:

Professor Christopher Levi – Conjoint Professor, the University of Newcastle/HMRI affiliated researcher/Honorary Consultant Neurologist, HNELHD/Professor of Medicine, UNSW

Associate Professor Andrew Bivard – Conjoint Lecturer, The University of Newcastle/HMRI affiliated researcher/Principal Research Fellow, the University of Melbourne

Professor Mark Parsons – Conjoint Professor, the University of Newcastle/HMRI affiliated researcher/Professor of Neurology, University of Melbourne

• Professor Geoffrey Donnan – The University of Melbourne

• Professor Farees Khan – Royal Melbourne Hospital

• Professor Marjory Moodie – Deakin University  

• Professor Beata Bajorek – The University of Technology, Sydney

• Professor Ken Butcher – The University of New South Wales

• Professor Hugh Markus – The University of Cambridge, UK

 • Professor Michael Nilsson – The University of Newcastle/HMRI

*Professor Christopher Levi, Associate Professor Andrew Bivard, Professor Mark Parsons and Professor Michael Nilsson are affiliates of the University of Newcastle, Hunter Medical Research Institute (HMRI) and Hunter New England Health.

The Greater Charitable Trust has provided funding that has enabled this project. HMRI is a partnership between the University of Newcastle, Hunter New England Health and the community. CONTACT: For interviews with Professor Chris Levi or Dr Andrew Bivard, contact University of Newcastle on 02 4921 5577 or email