clinical trial

Cancer clinical trial recruitment dropped during pandemic

Recent figures revealed by The Institute for Cancer Research, London, has shown that the number of patients recruited for clinical trials for cancer in England has decreased dramatically from an average of 67,000 in the previous three years, to 27,734 in 2020/21.

The ICR have said that patients should be able to check their own eligibility for clinical trials in order to bring the average number of participants back up to standard.

During the Covid-19 outbreak, recruitment has dropped by 60 per cent and after a poll of over 500 patients, only 11 per cent of those have taken part in a clinical trial.

Almost two thirds of cancer patients said they did not receive information about clinical trials during their treatment raising concerns about how freely trials are spoken about between consultants and patients.

The administrative burden on doctors could be discouraging them from discussing trials with their patients according to the ICR and information on cancer research is often not kept up to date.

Christina Yap, professor of clinical trials biostatistics at the ICR said: “Information about trials is not often up to date or easily accessible.

“This makes it difficult for doctors to keep up to date with trials and for patients to find out about available trials.

“We believe that information about clinical trials should be coordinated in an easily accessible format for patients and doctors, ideally, we want a centralised system for providing information on trials – a clear single point of entry, which is accessible, up to date and easily operable by the public, clinicians and researchers.

“For instance, it will be ideal to have a centralised, standardised screening system for trial eligibility, where a minimum set of information is collected on each patient which can then be used to screen patients and direct them to trials that are available for them.”

The ICR added that the pandemic has set the bar for what can be done when research is prioritised and well-funded and hopes to ‘see the same for cancer’ research.

Prof Yap added: “Covid-19 has shown us what can be done when research is prioritised and properly funded. We want to see the same for cancer.

“Patients are positive about taking part in trials, but only a small proportion are able to do so.

“The second point is there’s insufficient discussion about trials during the patient’s care – the majority, 63%, of cancer patients said they did not hear about clinical trials during the cancer treatment.

“Trial investigators across the UK are concerned that clinicians’ awareness of trials may be limited, particularly outside major centres.

“They suggested that time pressure and perceived administrative burden could discourage clinicians from discussing the possibility of taking part in the clinical trials for patients.”

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