Tackling patient diversity in cancer clinical trials

Image of a patient lying in bed with doctors at the bedside to show Tackling patient diversity in cancer clinical trials

The Christie NHS Foundation Trust and Innovative Trials have announced a pioneering partnership to tackle the issue of patient diversity in cancer clinical trials and help speed up research so that effective treatments come to market faster.

According to Innovative Trials, a major challenge facing clinical trials is recruiting enough eligible patients to make the research viable. Clinical trials that do not recruit or retain enough participants are at risk of failing. Another challenge is the current lack of diversity among patients who do participate in research. This can make it difficult to assess how effective medical treatments are for different groups of people.

The partnership between The Christie and Innovative Trials aims to tackle both issues by raising awareness of clinical research and increasing clinical trial participation among cancer patients — particularly those from black, Asian and minority ethnic communities — who live in or around Oldham, Wigan, Wythenshawe, Preston, Macclesfield and Stoke-on-Trent.

Penny Morrison, Patient Recruitment Strategy Director for Innovative Trials, said: “Recruiting people into clinical trials has always been challenging for the pharmaceutical industry. Part of the problem is that general awareness of clinical research — why it is important and what it involves — and clinical trial opportunities is low. We also know that people from minority ethnic communities are traditionally under-represented in research. Not all patients respond to medical treatments in the same way, so this lack of diversity can limit opportunities to ensure medical treatments work for all groups.

“We are delighted to be working alongside The Christie, one of the UK’s leading cancer centres, to help them tackle this issue. It is an exciting step towards changing the landscape for clinical trial participation, making them easier to access for more diverse population groups and increasing participation overall.”

Innovative Trials will use its expertise to interact with local communities and healthcare professionals to identify and engage with appropriate patients. The company will create bespoke and culturally appropriate materials designed to educate prospective clinical trial participants to ensure they are fully informed, and work with the clinical research delivery teams to make sure they are able to keep patients engaged for the duration of their trial.

As well as benefiting from clinical research much faster, they will be able to access these treatments in local Christie cancer centres rather than travelling to The Christie’s main site in Manchester. By partnering with NHS Trusts and working as a network to increase access to clinical trials across the UK, The Christie is looking to transform healthcare approaches.

Professor Andrew Wardley, Consultant Medical Oncologist at The Christie and project lead for this initiative, said: “We’re looking forward to working with Innovative Trials to give thousands of cancer patients the opportunity to access new therapies and new combinations of therapies to help them increase their chance of survival.

“It’s important that we’re able to offer our patients the best treatment and care, and a big part of this is access to clinical trials and the new treatments being developed. However, one of the challenges we face is making sure patients and their clinicians know what opportunities are available — fewer than 50 percent of cancer patients recall having clinical trials discussed with them following their diagnosis. We hope this initiative with Innovative Trials will help to reduce such variation between providers so that more patients can benefit from new treatments at the earliest opportunity.”

This initiative to increase opportunities for patients to participate in and benefit from clinical research forms part of Innovative Trials’ drive in its 10th anniversary year to raise public awareness of clinical research and make clinical trials more accessible to more people. It also supports NHS England’s Five Year Forward View of accelerating health innovation and new ways of delivering care.

The Christie’s overall outreach project to provide more localised care is in collaboration with the National Institute of Health Research (NIHR), Clinical Research Network (CRN) Greater Manchester.