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Key takeaways from a survey of 250 oncology patients measuring COVID-19’s impact on patient willingness to participate in clinical trials.
Amid the outbreak of COVID-19, the development of new treatments has never felt more important. With more than three-quarters of clinical trial sites1 reporting an impact from the pandemic, oncology companies have been pausing clinical trial enrollment in the interest of patient safety and data integrity. In a previous blog2, ZS discussed the need to consider a “reinitiation journey” for sites participating in clinical trials, including patients’ willingness to consider clinical trials.
In May, ZS and Continuum Clinical surveyed 250 oncology patients in the U.S., Germany, UK, Italy and Japan to measure COVID-19’s impact on patient willingness to participate in clinical trials. Here are the key takeaways from the survey, and implications for how to communicate with oncology patients about clinical trials in the COVID-19 era:
Awareness of clinical trials among cancer patients has increased since the onset of COVID-19. Given the amount of media attention on the development of new COVID-19 treatments, it’s unsurprising that awareness of clinical trials has gone up. Sixty-two percentof cancer patients surveyed said that their awareness of clinical trials has increased since the outbreak. This increase in awareness may provide an opportunity to engage with newly-interested patients on access to clinical trials. This is particularly applicable to those in the oncology community who interface with and educate patients, such as patient groups.
Cancer patients are unlikely to participate in clinical trials at COVID-19 treatment sites. Fifty-four percent of cancer patients are unlikely to participate in a clinical trial thatrequires visits to a COVID-19 treatment site, and 58% of patients cite COVID-19 exposure risk as their biggest concern, ranking substantially higher than other concerns such as the number of site visits (28%), and the need to travel (25%). If the heightened concern about COVID-19 exposure isn’t addressed, it likely will be a key barrier to oncology study enrollment.
Cancer patients want clear communication about trial sponsors. In the midst of COVID-19, oncology patients rank clear communication from trial sponsors as their most important priority, over and above any virtual trial elements. In times of uncertainty, open and clear communication with oncology patients should be prioritized, followed by the development of carefully selected virtual offerings and supplemental technology.
Communication with potential subjects should be a key focus for sponsors and CROs engaging with reinitiating sites. COVID-19 will inevitably lead to significant delays in getting new therapies to patients who need them. With an increasing awareness of clinical development, oncology trial sponsors should consider the following three-step strategy to effectively address potential subject concerns:
Chris Crabtree is an associate principal and the European lead for ZS’s R&D Excellence practice; and Ben Thomas is a consultant, both in ZS’s London office.