Clinical Trial Assist: Recruiting for Better Clinical Trials

For a patient, being able to access innovative therapies and medical tests through a clinical trial can sometimes be a matter of life and death. For researchers and drug developers, getting patients into their clinical trials can be the difference between success or failure.

With so much on the line, initiatives which can streamline patient identification and referral to boost clinical trial recruitment in Australia can make a real difference - and that's exactly what Clinical Trial Assist is doing.

The Clinical Trial Assist project, with support from MTPConnect, the George Institute for Global Health and industry partners NPS MedicineWise Group and Prospection, is in the early stages of testing new models to facilitate better patient recruitment into clinical trials.

This includes targeted communication about specific trials to GPs, education sessions, face-to-face in-practice support, and data-driven feasibility reports to identify the prevalence and state-based location of rare conditions in Australia.

The challenges are many. There's a need to identifying the best way to engage GPs, to effectively communicate the potential benefits of clinical trials to patients. It's not always obvious whether promotion should be targeted at GPs, general practices or practice managers. And then there is a lack of data-informed understanding when considering setting up trial sites in Australia.

The Clinical Trial Assist project has been able to leverage the expertise of its industry partner, NPS MedicineWise, in working with GPs to better connect researchers with GPs. This collaboration has allowed for some of the barriers to recruitment to be removed specifically, the lack of knowledge of current trials, benefits of participation, confidence that the research would be used for public good and lack of time or knowledge to refer patients to trials.

The project has also been able to tap into MedicineInsight, Australia's leading large-scale dataset regarding trial sites. It used de-identified data to assess eligibility, where and if trial sites should be established and to better understand the potential patient pool for different protocols.

The solution generated by Clinical Trial Assist is bespoke and scalable for all types of protocols. And while the project is still in the pilot stage, the early results show great promise.

The Clinical Trial Assist team has been helping to boost practice recruitment for the University of New South Wales Gout trial. During the team's intervention period - from May to August 2018 - recruitment has increased exponentially.

Figure 1: Practice recruitment figures for UNSW Gout trial. Clinical Trial Assist began assisting with recruitment in May 2018.

Marcel Schultz is a researcher on the UNSW gout trial. He says Clinical Trial Assist has made a real difference to the trial.

“We were able to boost our recruitment of GP practices very quickly despite our stringent eligibility criteria for patients and the challenging nature of recruiting in primary care.”

He says the leads they’ve been given were well-informed “and so were much more likely to take part in the study than those we contacted through other recruitment methods.”

Clinical Trial Assist takes the view that effective recruitment is a central plank of a vibrant clinical trials ecosystem. And in a virtuous circle, a functioning and engaged primary care research community will increase the likelihood of researchers being able to reach recruitment targets.

It is the Australian public who stand to benefit from improved recruitment through greater opportunities to receive new and experimental treatments and more robust results from clinical trials.

With such promising early results, the Clinical Trial Assist project is set to make a real difference in delivering better health and economic outcomes through the strengthening of the clinical research community.

For more information, visit Clinical Trial Assist.