Access to clinical trials closer to home for regional and rural Australians with cancer

23 November 2018

New tele-trials offer new hope for cancer patients in the bush. Australians with cancer living in regional and rural Australia will now have access to ground-breaking clinical trials, thanks to a new innovative tele-trial model currently being implemented by the Clinical Oncology Society of Australia (COSA).

COSA has developed the new ground-breaking Australasian Tele-Trial model to increase access to potentially lifesaving trials for patients living in regional and remote areas of the country who traditionally have not been able to access new or innovative treatments being trialled in major metropolitan areas.

Using existing tele-health methods, the COSA Tele-Trial Model connects large metropolitan and regional hospitals to smaller regional and rural hospitals with limited resources to provide access to trials of new or novel therapies or other potential advances for patients being treated for cancer in their own communities.

Airlie Beach grandmother Robyn Creighton is the first person in Queensland to participate in an industry sponsored cancer drug trial using the Tele-Trial Model. Ms Creighton who was diagnosed with breast cancer in September 2017 was offered participation in the “Monarch E“clinical trial which is testing a new drug to restrict the growth of breast cancer cells.

Without access to the tele-trial, Ms Creighton would have needed to undertake a seven hour round trip from Airlie Beach to Townsville to participate in this study.

“The trip was just too much of a stumbling block for me to agree to participate” she said.

Thanks to the roll out of the Tele-Trial Model in Queensland, Ms Creighton can now participate in the trial at Mackay Hospital supervised via video conference by clinical trial specialists at Townsville Hospital.

“When I was told I could do it at Mackay I agreed to give it a go. It didn’t seem fair that I couldn’t take part just because of where I live but I am glad that is starting to change.” Ms Creighton said.

Experts say the Tele-Trial initiative will result in improved quality of care for cancer patients and help reduce the disparity in outcomes for cancer patients living in regional and remote areas of Australia by enhancing rural service capabilities and reducing variation in practice.

Professor Sabe Sabesan, Director of Medical Oncology at Townsville Hospital and one of the lead authors of the Tele-Trials Model said, “There has been significant progress in treating cancers and it is important all our communities across the country are able to access the latest developments.

Queensland Health have led the necessary regulatory and governance reforms to establish the Tele-Trial Model in Queensland and it is vital that other States follow their lead and adopt uniform processes nationally.

Rob Zielinski, a medical oncologist at Orange Hospital and the lead investigator for a tele-trial between Orange Hospital and Dubbo, said, “Using the Tele-Trial Model has saved patients significant travel time and has enhanced networking and collaboration between oncologists at Orange and Dubbo Hospitals.

"There is little doubt in my mind that the Tele-Trial model will reshape the existing way we run cancer clinical trials. It’s all about improving access and this model will deliver.”

COSA is leading this work with funding from MTPConnect, the Australian Government’s Medical Technologies and Pharmaceuticals (MTP) Industry Growth Centre, with matched funding from a number of consortium partners including several research institutes, consumer organizations and the pharmaceutical industry. The Model is currently being implemented in hospitals throughout NSW, Victoria and Queensland. The COSA Australasian Tele-Trial Model Implementation Guide is available online at