Raising the Profile and Impact of Cancer Clinical Trials

Citing problems with participation, costs, exclusion criteria, and trial visibility, the National Cancer Institute (NCI) has made clinical trials a key focus area this year and is challenging its network of designated cancer centers to improve the numbers and diversity of patients who participate in clinical trials. Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University is rising to the challenge by launching an aggressive initiative to raise awareness of clinical trials.

The Winship campaign is using multiple strategies to inform patients and engage faculty and staff, including outreach to nurses, advanced practitioners, and others throughout the Emory Healthcare network.  A team of Winship leaders made early-morning appearances over the summer at clinics throughout metropolitan Atlanta, and handed out fact sheets and pocket cards to help the staff educate patients about clinical trials.  Group photos of nurses wearing Winship-branded sunglasses were shared on social media with a message that the “future is bright for clinical trials.”

Sprint banners promoting clinical trials greet patients as they walk in the door and posters are displayed in every Winship exam room. Doctors, nurses, and staff are wearing special buttons that say “Winship Clinical Trials Change Lives-Ask Your Care Team.”

Winship’s Associate Director of Clinical Research, Bassel El-Rayes, MD, says the initiative is already generating positive results. “Everyone

at Winship plays a role in the ‘highway’ that connects research and patient care.”

“This means more space for research and a diverse portfolio of trials that specifically addresses our patient populations,” says El-Rayes. “Winship is working to increase the visibility of our clinical research and loosen rigid entrance criteria while still making sure that the trials are safe and answer meaningful questions.”

For instance, it is common for patients to be denied access to a clinical trial for “organ dysfunction.”  El-Rayes says that creating trials for patients with organ dysfunction could offer insight into better treatment options. He also emphasizes the need to increase participation of minority patients in order to address their specific concerns. African Americans are disproportionately affected by certain cancers, and they make up a large percentage of the Atlanta population, good reasons to make sure they are well represented in Winship’s clinical trials. “We want our research to be safe and more impactful,” says El-Rayes.

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