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The Trend of Clinical Trials in the Community Setting

July 16, 2023

Clinical trials play a pivotal role in bringing new, more effective cancer treatments to market, yet less than 5% of cancer patients enroll in clinical trials. This makes it difficult for pharmaceutical companies to meet the recruiting requirements to complete their clinical research and keeps potentially life-saving therapies out of reach of patients who could benefit from them. 

So how can we increase clinical trial participation and introduce new drugs to all of the patients who need them? Community-based clinical trials could be the answer.

70% of patients live over two hours from the closest academic medical center.

Pharmaceutical companies have relied on large cancer centers and academic medical centers to host their clinical trials for decades. These institutions are typically in densely populated areas and see a large number of patients, making them attractive to companies conducting research studies. 70% of patients, however, live over two hours from the closest academic medical center and a recent Labcorp study1 indicates that cancer patients are exponentially less likely to participate in a clinical trial if they have to drive over 25 miles. Community-based trials address this problem by holding trials at smaller, local sites instead of only at large academic medical centers.

With community-based trials, sponsors and CROs can reach more patients and expedite
their recruitment efforts.

By casting a wider net, pharmaceutical companies also engage a more diverse patient cohort in their clinical trials – which helps meet regulatory guidelines and informs drug manufacturers of the efficacy of their drugs on broader patient populations. For local communities, clinical trials bring economic benefits to the area as well as more options for quality healthcare, including new and cutting-edge treatments.

77% of all current clinical trials occur in a community setting.

Pharmaceutical companies have realized the benefits of shifting to a more decentralized approach to clinical trials and the community-based trend is becoming the norm. 77% of all current clinical trials occur in a community setting.  Not including the 20 largest hospitals and academic medical centers, 85% of trials are now conducted in a community setting. This trend impacts sponsors, local communities, and patients.

For sponsors, community-based trials can help with recruitment and diversity, two areas that have traditionally been a challenge for pharmaceutical companies. Since roughly 20% of new drugs have different effects on people of different races, sponsors must recruit diverse clinical trial participants to ensure that their treatments are safe and effective.

But recruiting patients into trials is no easy task. According to the NIH, over 80% of clinical trials experience delays because of recruiting challenges2 and 85% of clinical trials fail to hit their recruitment goals.

There are many reasons that factor into patients declining to participate in clinical trials. They may:

  • Not be able to take off work
  • Not have a reliable means of transportation
  • Not be able to afford childcare during their treatment
  • Not feel healthy enough to travel long distances

Community-based clinical trials can eliminate many of these obstacles. Participants can visit a local community hospital, doctor’s office, or lab instead of driving hours to visit the main study site. This limits the time a patient has to take off from work and makes transportation much more convenient. To increase recruitment and accrue an appropriately representative patient cohort for their clinical trials, sponsors need to reach the 70% of patients who don’t live near an academic medical center.

Clinical trials offer new treatment options that many underserved areas and underrepresented patient populations have previously not had access to. By participating in trials, health systems and physicians bring these options to their local communities and offer their patients access to higher quality healthcare, including cutting-edge treatments and therapies.

By extended clinical trials to the community setting, sponsors gain access to a new pool of participants in need of treatment. Local health systems benefit from the funding and medical expertise flowing into their communities.  And most importantly, patients gain more and better options for their healthcare. Options which could save their lives.

The trend towards community-based clinical trials is a positive movement for pharmaceutical companies, health systems, and patients alike. These smaller sites, however, often face staffing and infrastructure challenges that are less burdensome for larger academic medical centers or cancer centers. With an average of 66 trials at community sites, it can be challenging for physicians to keep track of which trials are available at their sites. And with over 30,000 ongoing clinical trials in oncology3, it’s impossible to be aware of all options for their patients.

Well, almost impossible.

OncoLens works with over 200 cancer centers in the community setting and partners with clinical trial sponsors to ensure that care teams are always informed of the latest research studies available. Through the OncoLens platform, healthcare providers are alerted to potential trial matches at the point of treatment decision making.

By providing the most relevant information to physicians at the most appropriate time, OncoLens helps providers consider all possible options and make the most informed decisions for their patients. This helps tremendously in the identification and recruitment of patients into clinical trials. Given the time-sensitivity of oncology treatment decisions, the ability of healthcare providers to quickly match patients to clinical trials can potentially be the difference between life and death.

With more and more trials being conducted in the community setting, OncoLens aims to take the guess work out of the equation for community providers so that they can provide the highest possible quality of care.  Oftentimes, that means informing them of the latest clinical trials at the right time in their patient’s journey.  And the right time is as early as possible.





July 16, 2023
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