Doctor discussing treatment options with a patient.
Doctor discussing treatment options with a patient. Photo courtesy: 2019 Fotolia

On average, only 1 in 20 adult cancer patients enroll in a clinical trial during their cancer treatment. While these trials can provide treatment options for many patients, the process of finding clinical trials can be difficult.[1]

To increase the number of participating patients, collaboration between the American Society of Hematology (ASH) and The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS)’s Clinical Trial Support Center (CTSC) will help physicians and their care teams find critical clinical trial resource to their patients.

The initiative will help healthcare professionals provide one-on-one support to their patients and caregivers. As part of the program, specially trained CTSC Nurse Navigators are instrumental in providing personal assistance throughout the entire clinical trial process.

Now the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS) and The American Society of Hematology (ASH) are teaming up to expand support to patients with hematological malignancies and connect them to clinical trials. The collaboration aims to bridge this gap and connect more blood cancer patients to appropriate clinical trials.

The barriers to clinical trial participation has been frequently studied, however, the rate of trial participation has not changed substantially over time. Some of the barriers to clinical trial participation are structural, clinical, and attitudinal, others are based on demographic and socioeconomic factors.[1]

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“There are many obstacles preventing cancer patients from participating in clinical trials including accessibility, proximity and eligibility,” noted Gwen Nichols, MD, LLS chief medical officer.

“Low participation in clinical trials can also be due to patients and their healthcare providers simply not being aware of appropriate clinical trials. We are very excited that ASH clinicians and their patients will have direct access to our nurse navigators, freeing up the doctors to focus on patient care,” Nichols added.

Efficient search
The collaboration facilitates a more efficient clinical trial search process by enabling the referring hematologist to provide key clinical details about their patients directly to LLS’s Nurse Navigators.

This detailed information in turn helps the Nurse Navigators optimally tailor their search for trials that are most appropriate to patients being referred. LLS is committed to removing barriers patients face in accessing potentially lifesaving treatments and care and is the leading cancer nonprofit providing this personalized service to blood cancer patients, free of charge.

“For many people diagnosed with a blood cancer, time is of the essence when trying to find an appropriate clinical trial,” said Roy Silverstein, MD, the current president of ASH and Professor and Chair of Medicine at the Medical College of Wisconsin Division of Hematology and Oncology in Milwaukee.

“By partnering with LLS, our hope is to bring this wonderful service to more people while also decreasing the amount of time it takes to match to a trial by streamlining communication among the doctor, patient, and Nurse Navigator,” Silverstein added.

Under the agreement, starting in January 2020, ASH will give its more than 2,500 member clinicians in the U.S. and Canada access to LLS’s free Clinical Trial Support Center (CTSC) through a dedicated portal.

CTSC Nurse Navigators, trained in hematological malignancies, clinical trials and patient education and support, have specialized expertise in working one-on-one with patients to identify appropriate clinical trials based on their diagnosis, overall health status, ability to travel for treatment, insurance restrictions, support systems and other unique factors.

Benefits of the collaboration include:

  • Easy access to CTSC Nurse Navigators through the ASH portal
  • Highly-trained Nurse Navigators work with patients and families to navigate trial inclusion and exclusion criteria and other potential barriers to enrollment
  • Nurse Navigators provide patients and families, and their healthcare teams, free education and additional resources during the clinical trial process

Pilot program
Before launching their collaboration early next month, LLS and ASH finalized a six-month pilot that gave a small group of physicians direct access to Clinical Trial Support Center, which opened in 2016. An analysis of the results of the pilot demonstrated that the service was highly valued.

“This program has been instrumental in getting three of my patients on immunotherapy trials,” said Jennifer Holter-Chakrabarty, MD, a hematologist-oncologist at OU Medicine in Oklahoma City.

“It let me know what trials were open and available. Without it, my patients and I would have had to call numerous trials to check the status, which would have, quite frankly, wasted a lot of time. I think the program allows ASH members to focus their efforts efficiently and effectively. It gives families the peace of mind in knowing they have looked for the best possible cutting-edge science for themselves and their families,” Holter-Chakrabarty noted.

This collaboration is being generously supported by Amgen Inc., a Champion Sponsor of the expansion of the CTSC.

“Amgen is pleased to provide support to ASH and LLS for this collaboration that empowers patients diagnosed with cancer to work with their physicians to make informed decisions about joining a clinical trial,” said Darryl Sleep, MD, senior vice president, Global Medical and Chief Medical Officer at Amgen.

“With the increased use of targeted immunotherapies and more sophisticated biomarkers driving personalized oncology treatment, it is more important than ever to deliver approaches that will make clinical trials more accessible, with the hope of bringing new therapies to cancer patients who need them as quickly as possible,” Sleep concluded.

Other support comes from Seattle Genetics, Foundation Medicine, Pharmacyclics & Janssen Biotech.

Unger JM, Cook E, Tai E, Bleyer A. The Role of Clinical Trial Participation in Cancer Research: Barriers, Evidence, and Strategies. American Society of Clinical Oncology Educational Book 2016 :36, 185-198 [Article]

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