The coronavirus pandemic may be associated with a significant drop in cancer patients participating in clinical trials, especially in areas most affected by Covid-19, a new study suggests.
In an effort to reduce the risk of exposing patients and staff to the novel coronavirus and to preserve resources, some institutions in the United States have pulled back or altogether and stopped enrollment in trials, according to the study published in the medical journal JAMA Network Open on Monday.
The study included data on initial enrollments in trials conducted through the SWOG Cancer Research Network between January and April 25.
The data showed that the number of cancer patients enrolling in trials declined from anywhere between 125 and 150 per week in January, February and early March to only 109 patients in the week of March 15.
After that, enrollment appeared to go back up just slightly, then down again.
As the pandemic continued, trials in areas with some of the nation’s highest numbers of Covid-19 cases were “approximately half as likely” to continue enrolling patients, the researchers from various institutions across the United States
wrote in the study.
The study also found that enrollment in trials studying cancer control and prevention decreased more than enrollment in trials studying cancer treatments.
Note on the study: The study had some limitations, including that it only involved data from the SWOG Cancer Research Network - which is 1 of 4 adult National Cancer Institute network groups.
More research is needed to determine whether similar findings would emerge among a larger sample of trials.
So far, “the National Cancer Institute and the US Food and Drug Administration have issued guidance to provide greater flexibility to ensure that patients enrolled in clinical trials are exposed to as little risk as possible during the Covid-19 pandemic,” the researchers wrote in the new study.
Those steps include allowing for remote consent and establishing virtual telehealth visits, which are “approaches that may improve the experience of trial participation for patients in the long term,” the researchers wrote.
Source : CNN