Access to clinical trials is an essential part of any medical oncology service. The challenges faced in setting up a regional oncology clinical trial unit are unique in addition to those faced by metropolitan centres.
The Goulburn Valley Health (GVH) Oncology Unit was established in early 2012 with the recruitment of 2 consultant medical oncologists. The oncology clinical trials unit was set up in August 2012. We hereby describe some of the challenges faced and the clinical trials in which we have participated.
The various challenges faced include: 1) recruitment, retention and ongoing funding of a trial coordinator; 2) setting up a patient database for trial feasibility; 3) setting up internal workflow processes for costing; 4) interest of pharmaceutical companies in regional site participation and access to novel pipeline compounds; 5) acceptance by clinical trial alliance groups of a regional site; 6) institution-wide understanding of what research means and the importance of an oncology clinical trials unit; 7) public education of the importance of clinical trials for oncology patients and 8) constraints in resources and time of a limited medical and nursing workforce. Membership with various tumour stream trials collaborative groups has enhanced access to and participation in clinical trials. Cancer Council Victoria also has assisted by having trials opened at our centre published on their website.
To date, we have opened 6 clinical trials amongst various tumour streams including breast, bowel and prostate cancers. Thirty-nine patients have been screened and amongst them, 26 successfully enrolled onto the studies. We are also participating in nation-wide cancer database registries and Expanded Access Programs.
Setting up and sustaining an oncology clinical trials unit in a regional centre has its many challenges. The value of access to clinical trials for regional oncology patients and the intangible return of being on the oncology radar screen are priceless!