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The Pandemic Offers lessons to Speed up Management of Future Clinical Trials in Oncology

Updated: Jun 29, 2021

May 20: World Clinical Trial Day

The health crisis generated by COVID-19 has affected usual practices in oncology due to the profound reorganization that the health industry has undergone to care for the sick and the measures adopted to stop new cases. Clinical research in cancer has been one of the most affected fields with a 60% decrease in new clinical trials, difficulties in patient recruitment, and the interruption of studies in many centers.

However, clinical research in oncology has not stopped. The introduction of new strategies in remote trial management and changes in patient care protocols have allowed research to continue even throughout the most critical moments of the pandemic. For example, access to treatment and clinical follow-up of patients participating in clinical trials was guaranteed through shipping medications directly to their home or conducting follow-up consultations by telephone, thus reducing the need for physical visits to the hospital.

In order to also streamline the follow-up of patients participating in clinical trials, it is expected that there will be greater flexibility on where clinical evaluations are carried out. The objective is to avoid the need for patients to travel to the referral hospital, for example for face-to-face visits, which would only be mandatory for patients experiencing side effects or symptoms of relapse, rather than all trial participants. This tailored follow-up could, in fact, improve the generalizability of clinical trial results to the general population.[1]

“These changes, which have simplified numerous procedures at a time of great need, have great potential to streamline long-term clinical oncology research. Therefore, it is convenient to take advantage of the experience to maintain these measures beyond the pandemic”, explains Roldán Cortés, MEDSIR Director of Development.

In this sense, the increase in digital literacy through the promotion of measures such as the virtual monitoring of patients or the use of alert and symptom notification applications, constitute an opportunity to revolutionize the way in which the patient will communicate with the healthcare team and how data will be collected from participants in future clinical trials.[1]

Beyond streamlining the follow-up of patients participating in cancer studies, one of the pending challenges in clinical research is to simplify the bureaucracy associated with their management. “During the health crisis, regulatory entities agreed to speed up procedures to start new trials against COVID-19, to accelerate research on possible treatments in a situation of great need for clinical data. The demonstration that it is possible to streamline procedures to facilitate scientific research in serious diseases is a lesson to be applied in the future of clinical research in oncology, especially in studies with patients who have large unmet clinical needs”, explains Roldán Cortés.

As an additional positive, the pandemic has highlighted the importance of clinical research among the general public. Furthermore, the strategies and measures introduced have the potential to facilitate the participation of patients in future oncology focused trials, which would be an opportunity to accelerate their access to the most promising treatments against the disease.

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[1] Life After COVID-19 for Cancer Clinical Trials. (2020). International Journal of Radiation Oncology. Published.



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