Media Room

01.06.2021

The State of Cancer Research: An Oncology CRO’s Perspective

For over a year, the COVID-19 pandemic has dominated the conversation in the clinical development space. Vaccine development skyrocketed in relevance practically overnight, and continued to be top-of-mind for patients, providers, and researchers for many months.

As a full-service CRO, infectious disease trials became a key focus for the team at OCT Clinical in 2020. The search for treatments has not stopped, but with multiple COVID-19 vaccines now available, the rush for a cure has slowed — and the pharma, healthcare, and life sciences communities can resume a more concentrated focus on other diseases. For many, cancer is at the top of the list. Cancer drugs are by far the most tested treatments in the United States; by number of trials conducted in a 20-year period, they outnumber the next largest category — cardiovascular — six to one.

Working with sponsors offshoring clinical trials to Europe, we have first-hand experience with the high volume of oncology trials. OCT Clinical has conducted 63 oncology clinical trials in Russia and Eastern Europe. Given the urgent need for innovation in oncology research, our team also works to stay informed on new developments, trends, and insights in the field. Here, we’ve shared some of the most important considerations for cancer research and oncology trials in 2021.

COVID-19 Parallels: Disparities in Clinical Trial Participation

A journal article published last fall by the American Association for Cancer Research explored the similarities between COVID-19 and cancer, which both disproportionately affect minority populations. This discovery underscores the need for greater diversity in clinical trial participation. To help achieve this, Sponsors must work to leverage the best CRO services for patient engagement.

The authors outlined specific actions that parties managing clinical trials, and the greater healthcare community, can take to mitigate the disparities for cancer and COVID-19 patients and trial participants. Some of these include:

  • Designing clinical trials to oversample minority populations
  • Supporting public hospitals, especially in underserved regions
  • Ensuring accessibility of telehealth services
  • Ramping up cancer screening programs following the pandemic
  • Developing community engagement strategies
  • Allocating sufficient budget to cancer disparity research projects and community outreach
  • Leveraging patient navigator networks

With these strategies in place, we can all do our part to make sure cancer patients from all racial and ethnic groups are represented in cancer research, drug testing, and treatment.

Managing Clinical Trials for Rare Cancers

Some of the most common forms of cancer have seen tremendous progress in treatment options over the last few decades. OCT Clinical has been closely involved with these efforts; our breast cancer CRO portfolio, for instance, includes 16 projects since 2005. But as more and more progress is made with treating common cancers, rare cancers continue to demand their share of attention. In fact, according to data in the United States, rare cancers account for one out of every four cancer malignancies.

OCT Clinical and other oncology CROs know the challenges of managing clinical trials for rare cancers. Meeting enrollment targets can be very difficult, so for these trials, it is important to choose the right CRO for oncology research with a strong track record with enrollment timelines.

Key CRO services for oncology trials also include clinical study design and biostatistics services, which both contribute to the strength, credibility, and overall success of the trial. Ensuring the integrity of these efforts and working towards more sophisticated cancer models will be essential in the fight against rare cancers and other diseases.

Immunotherapy and Cancer Vaccines

Cancer immunotherapy uses the immune system to attack cancer cells. There are several different forms of cancer immunotherapy, and therapeutic cancer vaccines are emerging as a promising option.

There are many cancer vaccine trials in progress or in planning stages. This sets the stage for exciting developments in cancer immunotherapy, which could potentially include personalized cancer therapies. While achieving this approach is still a bit distant, we will soon have more information on if and how personalized cancer therapies can be developed.

In the pursuit of offering the best CRO services, OCT Clinical is committed to working alongside our colleagues in the fight against all diseases. Whether common or rare, all types of cancers affect a vast patient population worldwide, and we are proud to support the development of life-saving treatments.

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