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May 8, 2020

Why Modernizing Ovarian Cancer Clinical Trials Is More Important Than Ever

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      Photo of Kelly Brown

      Kelly Brown

    Ovarian cancer has the lowest survival rate of all gynecological cancers and is characterized by its late-stage diagnosis and “hidden” symptoms. By the time it is found, it has often spread, which is why it’s so important to tackle this devastating disease on all fronts.

    Today, May 8, is World Ovarian Cancer Day, which brings together ovarian cancer organizations around the globe to show support for the roughly 300,000 women diagnosed each year. Of this number, around 140,000 will sadly die. And by 2040, the number of women diagnosed annually will rise to 434,184. By this estimate, the number of women dying each year will increase to 293,039. Sobering statistics to say the least.

    COVID-19 and Ovarian Cancer Diagnosis

    The problem is that these figures don’t take into account the impact of COVID-19 on cancer treatments. Right now, doctors across the world are experiencing enormous challenges when it comes to diagnosing cancer as well as treating patients.

    Many patients suffering with symptoms are likely staying at home. At the start of the pandemic, many governments called on physicians to halt nonessential procedures. What many people didn’t realize was that this included many cancer surgeries.

    So, as it stands, many women with ovarian cancer could be missing out on biopsies, scans and visits to their doctors. And because ovarian cancer is so hard to diagnose in the first place, there will be more women who will ignore early signs such as bloating and loss of appetite because they will think that physicians are not available to see them.

    A Chance to Modernize Clinical Trials

    In periods of emergency, great technological progress is often made because time is of the essence. We have seen how fast the world has got used to working from home - a development that would have been unthinkable just three months ago. The pandemic sweeping the globe has shown that people quickly adapt, and the clinical trial industry is no different.

    Technology solutions such as Teckro have been adopted to streamline the clinical trials management process. This is good news because technology has a role to play in improving trial efficiency, protecting patient safety and preserving data integrity – ultimately getting treatments to market faster.

    For patients suffering from cancers that are difficult to diagnose and/or prone to relapses, it only makes sense to remove every barrier with how clinical trials are run to focus on finding a cure.

    Here are two key ways to help lower the ovarian cancer fatality rate through modernizing clinical trial management:

    • Improve communication among research staff, monitors and sponsors.
      By connecting stakeholders, it means everyone has the most current study information. Whether specific details in the protocol or providing clarifications for a site-specific question, collaboration and real-time communication are essential. As they say, information is power. In clinical trials, information is the key to trial safety and data integrity. We have found that when research site staff have access to immediate, accurate answers, there are fewer errors and the right patients are recruited faster. For example, in our analysis of several studies with a Top 10 sponsor, we found that sites searching with Teckro randomized on average 55% more patients compared with sites not on Teckro. And two oncology trials with a Top 10 sponsor reported 55% fewer deviations per patient randomized for sites searching with Teckro compared with those not.

    • Increase the number of women taking part in clinical trials.
      The Every Woman Study Summary Report from 2018 that surveyed 1500 women worldwide, showed that fewer than one in four women were asked about joining a clinical trial. But, just 2.7% of women said that they were not interested in taking part in future clinical trials, with eight in 10 women saying they would be willing to travel to another hospital to take part in a trial. The results clearly showed that the desire is there and the opportunity more often than not, is not. By making clinical trials simpler, more accessible and more transparent, our hope is that more investigators will want to run trials and that will in turn make trials more accessible to more patients – including women.

    Ovarian cancer is a devastating disease with more than 80% of ovarian cancer patients experiencing a relapse and over half dying in less than five years post-diagnosis. The survival rate is well below that of other cancers affecting women, like breast cancer which has a 90% five-year survival rate if caught early. There’s no doubt that at the moment the long-term projections look bleak for ovarian cancer. However, it doesn’t have to be this way.

    This year, World Ovarian Cancer Day falls during a time when COVID-19 has also highlighted the vulnerability of cancer patients when resources are scarce. This offers an opportunity to seize the chance to modernize clinical trials to make sure that effective treatments can be discovered and that ovarian cancer patients can access them and don’t slip through the cracks during the eligibility process.

    Photo of Kelly Brown

    Kelly Brown