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Medidata Research Finds Oncology Trial Enrollment Rebounded Even as COVID-19 Cases Rose

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While the COVID-19 pandemic certainly had an impact on enrollment for oncology clinical trials, you might be surprised at just how quickly enrollment began to improve, even as COVID-19 cases were on the rise.

A group of researchers teamed up to study trends in oncology trial enrollment last year based on waves of the pandemic. The new research described in an American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) poster presented at the annual meeting this month focuses on cancer patient trial enrollment and examines all of 2020. Studying MEDS data, the authors found that after the May 2020 low point in trial enrollment, there was a surge in clinical trial enrollment through the end of Q4 2020 that largely offset the decline earlier in the year. 

While it was not a full rebound, the enrollment rebound in the second half of 2020 was substantial, and on par with 2018 total enrollment. This finding represents extremely good news regarding the ability of the clinical trials enterprise to adapt to an unexpected shock like this once-in-a-century pandemic.

Their work comes as a follow-up to a JAMA network paper published January 27, 2021 by the same team and reported a 60% drop in new oncology trial launches during the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic. The team studied five years of Medidata Enterprise Data Store data and found a 60% decrease in new oncology trial launches at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic from January 2020 through May 2020. Ultimately, the JAMA paper foreshadowed a future of potentially halted or stalled trials during a period of uncertainty in oncology development.

The research presented at ASCO 2021 didn’t focus on what the specific sites and sponsors did to keep their trials on track and didn’t report what contributed to this significant increase in enrollment in the second half of 2020. Other research has suggested that the rebound was due to multiple factors including home delivery of oral anti-cancer drugs to patients, virtual visits, and virtual patient monitoring, all of which represent a change in the clinical trial experience. Ultimately, the authors hope that many of the techniques prescribed to overcome the COVID-19 challenge will persist beyond COVID-19 to alleviate trial patient burden and streamline trial execution.

Additional Thanks: We’d like to thank the authors Elizabeth Lamont, MD, MS, Kevin Blum, MS, Ron Katriel, PhD, and Lisa Ensign, PhD.

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