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Increasing trial participation for new cancer treatments

Posted on September 12th, 2022 by in Pharma R&D

Thanks to new and innovative treatments, cancer survival rates continue to improve dramatically – and this will likely only accelerate in the future. Each news cycle seems to carry a new flurry of good news – whether it’s ‘New cancer treatment offers hope to patients out of options’ or ‘How AI in precision medicine is helping find new treatments for brain tumors in children’.

Unfortunately, as all pharma researchers know, there is a limiting factor. As one study put it: “The increasing sophistication of cancer treatments threatens to outpace the ability of health care providers to enroll patients in clinical trials to test those therapies.”

Finding the right candidates – fast 

Olaf Lodbrok is Elsevier’s Senior VP for Precision Medicine, Real World Evidence and Analytics. “It’s our job to use data to help organizations treat patients better,” he says. “And giving more patients access to trials certainly works to do that.”

Around two years ago, he became aware that the trial function on ClinicalPath, an oncology pathways and clinical decision support system, was not working as it should. “It was just too arcane and difficult to use to be effective. So, we set out to simplify the process for organizations running clinical trials in cancer to advertise the trials currently enrolling,” says Olaf.

“As we talked to customers, we realized that Trial Manager was actually a huge opportunity for ClinicalPath since it’s not only a leading system for treating cancer patients in North America, it also gets the data at a super granular level of clinical – not just theoretical – importance.”

“This is what makes the system so unique: we can really funnel down to find potential candidates in a very accurate manner – for instance, you can get down to that 3% of breast cancer patients who may be most relevant for your study. As a result, the response to our own trials has been very positive.”

Solving a patient problem 

The recently launched ClinicalPath Trial Manager is expected to double enrollment for oncology trials. The feature alerts oncologists in identifying eligible patients at the point of diagnosis. The technology has already improved trial placement at a large U.S. academic medical hospital by a factor of five.

“Pharma companies understand completing trials in a timely manner is highly desirable. But it’s also better for the patient – that’s why Congress mandated that all trials be published to give patients the opportunities to participate early in cutting-edge research,” says Olaf.

“It gives people access to new, more modern and effective treatments with less side effects. And even if you are part of the control group, your treatment will be better if you’re part of a clinical trial.”

Opening trials up to all patients also confronts another challenge related to trials: equitable representation. “You’re opening the funnel to everyone, regardless of race, ethnic background, sex, etcetera. Now the patient will be informed by their doctor of any potential trials, instead of having to track down the trials themselves – which may be a problem if you are already, for example, struggling with your day-to-day.” 

Elevating a patient’s journey

Olaf very much sees Trial Manager as making a small contribution in the larger aim of helping streamline patient journeys. “Disease is an inevitable part of life. And in a way, you can see your life as a patient journey through the healthcare system. At the moment this journey is highly fragmented – with the data remaining unconnected,” notes Olaf. “And if you look at those healthcare systems in the world that are most effective in terms of treatments and costs, it’s those that have managed to centralize this information and use it, and data science and AI for the benefit of the patient.”

“Our ultimate aim is to connect all those fragmented encounter points a patient has – to complete the patient journey. For instance, knowing if someone had a negative reaction to an antibiotic five years ago, is very important – for both the patient and for research.” 

“And if you happen to know about certain trials, you can perhaps participate and receive innovative treatment – improving your outcome and elevating your journey.”

ClinicalPath Trial Manager is now available for organizations and pharmaceutical sponsors to improve trial enrollment in the ClinicalPath network. Reach out to Olaf (o.lodbrok@elsevier.com) to learn more.

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