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Overcoming Barriers to Clinical Trial Enrollment

June 04, 2019

Clinical trials play an important, and often underrecognized, role in addressing scientific challenges and identifying better ways to treat, diagnose, and prevent cancer-related diseases. From breakthrough immunotherapy drugs to cancer vaccines in development, the most promising innovations begin with clinical trials that examine how patients respond to new approaches. But research requires patients who are willing to participate. At the 2019 American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) Annual Meeting, barriers to clinical trial enrollment was a key topic of discussion.

Addressing Barriers to Clinical Trial Enrollment

Cathy Barter, clinical research manager, Texas Oncology–Medical City Dallas

Cathy Barter, clinical research manager, Texas Oncology–Medical City Dallas

Current challenges associated with clinical trial enrollment are contributing to low participation rates, and often stem from patient misconceptions. There is a lack of understanding and education for patients regarding clinical trials in cancer care. Common misconceptions include thinking long distance travel is required; being in a ‘placebo’ group and not receiving treatment; and viewing clinical trials as a ‘last resort’ for treatment.

Texas Oncology addresses these barriers through visibility and transparency about clinical trials and explaining their role in furthering research. Trials are a means for innovating the way cancer is treated. Through trials, new therapies become more widely available to the patients whom they benefit. To ensure our patients are aware of where, how, and why clinical trials are offered, our clinical research coordinators provide educational resources and facilitate open discussions with patients throughout the process.

Clinical Trial Coordinators are Key

The role of a clinical trial coordinator is diverse. They are responsible for the care of the patient, much like a nurse, but they have additional responsibilities to ensure protocol compliance, serving as the main point of contact for any clinical trial. Coordinators are responsible for identifying potentially eligible patients and serving as a liaison between the patient, the physician, and the trial sponsor. Specific duties include educating patients and obtaining consent to participate, ordering diagnostic tests, scheduling and referring patient visits, recruiting patients for the trials, timely data entry, and compliance with federal, state, and local regulatory requirements.

Enrolling in a Clinical Trial

Coordinators first identify potential trial participants and discuss the opportunity with the patient’s physician, who then discusses the study with the patient, providing an overview of the protocol and therapy involved. The physician then connects the patient with the clinical research coordinator for a more thorough discussion regarding the trial, reviewing resources and, ensuring all questions are addressed.

It’s important to us that we provide a positive experience. Ultimately, we find that patients are excited to have access to new treatment options and play a part in the future of cancer care. They want to help the next generation and prevent their children and grandchildren from experiencing cancer, or at the very least, increase the chance of curing it.”

Contributing to Cancer Treatment Innovations

With more than 150 open national clinical trials, on average, and more than 2,500 patients enrolled in clinical trials annually at 56 different locations, Texas Oncology has helped develop more than 85 FDA-approved cancer therapies, about one-third of all approved cancer therapies to date. But like any research program, Texas Oncology faces these obstacles to enrollment and works to educate patients. With the help of patients participating in our robust research program, together we can continue to innovate cancer care and improve the patient experience for those fighting cancer now and in the future.

For upcoming webinars visit www.TexasOncologyFoundation.org.