Transforming Cancer Care Beyond COVID-19

Since the onset of COVID-19 early last year, many cancer clinical trials were conducted remotely and it’s a trend that could take hold post-pandemic. Less than 5% of adult cancer patients enroll in clinical trials mainly due to physical, financial and emotional barriers. Some trials are offered at a handful of cancer centers in the nation, which require extensive travel and commitment, providing a hardship for most people. 

According to an article published by the National Institutes of Health, “A clinical trial system that enrolls patients at higher rates produces treatment advances at a faster rate and corresponding improvements in cancer population outcomes. Viewed in this light, the issue of clinical trial enrollment is foundational, lying at the heart of the cancer clinical trial endeavor. Fewer barriers to trial participation would allow trials to be completed more quickly and would improve the generalizability of trial results.” 

RPM COULD BE THE SOLUTION

The leadership of American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) launched a survey last March of clinical programs to learn about the types of challenges and changes to clinical trials that research programs were experiencing due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 64% of respondents reported that their institutions developed formal policies related to the pandemic, with 90.6% implementing remote patient care interactions where possible, such as patient review of symptoms and telehealth visits. 

On March 24, 2020, ASCO launched a survey of clinical programs represented on its Cancer Research Committee and Research Community Forum Steering Group and task forces to learn about the types of challenges and changes to clinical trials that research programs were experiencing due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The survey results provide an early snapshot of the clinical trial environment across a variety of types of U.S. research programs. The leadership of American Society of Clinical Oncology ASCO’s research-oriented committees also believes the survey identified some changes in practice that provide long-term opportunities to transform clinical trials, refine existing research infrastructure and procedures, and promote patient-centered research. “Three quarters of programs mandated remote work by their research staff. Many program policies were directed specifically at clinical research operations. Remote site initiation visits (65.6%) and remote monitoring by sponsors and/or contract research organizations (CROs) (71.9%) were common.

 

“Remote site initiation visits and monitoring by sponsors/CROs were viewed positively by 71.0% and 64.5% of respondents, respectively. Slightly fewer than half of respondents (45.2%) cited remote safety laboratory collections as a potential opportunity for improved clinical trial operations.” 

 

RPM technologies such as VSTOne, a wearable patch that continuously monitors vitals for people with chronic conditions, could be the solution to keep cancer patients safe and healthy, without having to travel long distances to participate in life-saving clinical trials.