Alleviating Pandemic-Related Anxiety Over Returning to the Clinic for Clinical Trials

In an interview with CURE®, expert Martha Raymond explains the importance of clinical trials during the COVID-19 pandemic and how clinicians must find a way to help ease patients anxieties as they return to the clinic.

For immunocompromised patients with cancer who may be afraid of contracting COVID-19, the pandemic has brought many things to a halt – including cancer clinical trials. That’s why Martha Raymond, the founder and CEO of The Raymond Foundation, and her colleagues set out to identify the current barriers to clinical trial participation and present their findings at this year’s ASCO Gastrointestinal Cancers Symposium.

According to Raymond, data from the National Institute of Health and the National Library of Medicine has found that 988 clinical trials were suspended from March through September, and 60% of institutions are enrolling patients into trials at a lower rate than before the pandemic. And while clinical trials offer access to the newest cancer treatments, only 2%-3% of patients enroll in a trial. Add a pandemic to the equation and clinical trial participation becomes even more difficult.

In an interview with CURE®, Raymond explained what she and her team found when they surveyed more than 500 patients about the barriers, they feel exist to clinical trial enrollment, and even in returning to the clinic for treatment during the pandemic. Their responses, Raymond explained, highlighted the need for open and honest communication between healthcare professionals and patients.

Transcription:

So, one of the big things with our patient community is that they were – and still are, to be honest with you – very frightened about what that meant, about returning to the clinic, not just for a trial if their trial had possibly resumed, but also for treatment.

And, you know, as we all know, when we're in our bubble, you try to stay as safe and secure as possible. But for cancer patients, when they're already immunocompromised, the thought of going into a hospital setting and oncology setting, it really has been very difficult for patients and, you know, totally understandable.

So, we spent a lot of time discussing this with our patients, and just going over all the layers of protection that the oncology centers are providing, and the other things that they can do on their own so that they feel more comfortable returning to the clinic.

And I think there, again, that brings the point home that it's so important, anytime in the treatment paradigm, or the trial paradigm, that that relationship with our healthcare professionals, that communication, I think now more than ever, is vitally important because patients are rightfully so very concerned. I think will be for quite some time moving forward.