Clinical trials are essential to advancements in treating — and ultimately eradicating — cancer. And patient participation is key to ensuring their efficacy and accuracy.
However, patients aren’t as willing to enroll in trials as they have been in the past. One study conducted in 2020 found that 49% of respondents were willing to participate in trials, which was down from 85% in 2019. One reason could be patient education; that same study showed 36% of those polled didn’t understand clinical research very well or at all. That number was at 10% in 2019.
The best way to make patients feel more comfortable enrolling in trials is participation by community oncology practices, which allows them to take part in trials close to home and alongside nurses and physicians who they already know and trust.
Getting Trials into the Communities
About 90% of cancer patients are treated at community practices — yet most clinical trials are performed at academic institutions, where they can be accessed by only about 10% of patients. This not only limits the number of patients who can enroll, but it puts the additional burden of travel on those who do participate, especially those who live in rural areas.
By administering trials at community oncology practices such as those that comprise the American Oncology Network (AON), pharmaceutical companies can provide patients with access to cutting-edge and innovative therapies and medications in the comfort and familiarity of their local clinic.
This benefits scientists and oncologists too, as they can get a clearer picture of the efficacy of a certain medication or therapy when a large number of patients enrolls in a trial.
Addressing Patient Concerns
Before enrolling in a clinical trial, patients are put through a rigorous screening process to make sure it is safe for them to participate.
Once patients are cleared, scientists, oncologists and nurses outline the process, explaining why the design of a certain drug fits their particular case and how it may aid in their treatment. If a patient has any concerns — for example, many fear they will be placed in a placebo group — it is covered in that discussion.
Once those conversations take place and their fears fully addressed, patients are typically very willing and engaged in the trials — especially when they realize that their participation can help millions of others who are also fighting cancer.
Partnering with a Network can Benefit Trials
Some local clinics may not have the manpower, time or resources necessary to participate in clinical trials, especially clinics located in rural areas. Partnering with a network such as AON can alleviate those issues.
Whether it’s financial support or assistance recruiting the necessary personnel, AON can help lay the groundwork for a community practice to start administering trials. The network can also assist with laboratory or tech support and the implementation of any hardware or software.
Clinical research is another way community oncology practices can take better care of their patients while contributing to the body of scientific knowledge. Through these trials, oncologists can continue to learn new and innovative ways to treat cancer and provide more optimistic and successful outcomes for their patients.