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Pandemic strategies to boost trial enrollment should stay


The survey, which included 64 questions, was intended to assess the impact of the COVID pandemic on lung cancer clinical trials.

Most of the survey responses came from sites in Europe (37.6%); 21.4% came from Asia, 13.3% came from the United States, and 7.5% came from Canada.

The team found that enrollment into lung cancer trials declined by 43% in 2020 compared to 2019, at an incidence rate ratio of 0.57 (P = .0115).

The largest decreases in enrollment were between April and August 2020, Dr. Smeltzer noted. However, in the last quarter of 2020 (October to December), the differences in enrollment were significantly smaller (P = .0160), despite a marked increase in global COVID-19 cases per month, he added.

The most common challenges faced by clinical trial sites during the pandemic were the following: There were fewer eligible patients (cited by 67% of respondents); compliance protocol was worse (61%); trials were suspended (60%); there was a lack of research staff (48%); and there were institutional closures (39%).

Regarding patient-related challenges, 67% of sites cited less willingness to visit the site. Other challenges included less ability to travel (cited by 60%), reduced access to the trial site (52%), quarantining because of exposure to COVID-19 (40%), and SARS-CoV-2 infection (26%).

Concerns of patients included the following: Fear of SARS-CoV-2 infection, which was cited by 83%; travel restrictions (47%); securing transportation (38%); and access to the laboratory/radiology services (14%).

“Patient willingness to visit the site was a consistent barrier reported across Europe, the U.S., and Canada,” said Dr. Smeltzer, although the effect was smaller in North America, he added.

Regarding mitigation strategies that were employed during the pandemic to combat the challenges and concerns, the team found that the most common measure was the modification of monitoring requirements, used by 44% of sites.

This was followed by the use of telehealth visits (43% sites), the use of laboratories at non-study facilities ( 27%), and alterations to the number of required visits (25%).

Other mitigation strategies included use of mail-order medications, (24%), using radiology services at a non-study site (20%), and altering the trial schedules (19%).

The most effective mitigation strategies were felt to be those that allowed flexibility with respect to location. These measures included use of remote monitoring, remote diagnostics, telehealth visits, and modified symptom monitoring.

Effective strategies that increased flexibility in time were delayed visits, delayed assessments, and changes to the Institutional Review Board.

The study was funded by the IASLC, which received industry support to conduct the project. Dr. Smeltzer reported no relevant financial relationships. Dr. Garassino has relationships with AstraZeneca, BMS, Boehringer Ingelheim, Celgene, Daiichi Sankyo, Eli Lilly, Ignyta, Incyte, MedImmune, Mirati, MSD International, Novartis, Pfizer, Regeneron, Roche, Takeda, and Seattle Genetics.

A version of this article first appeared on


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