We hosted a panel discussion in partnership with Marcus Evans, Joscelyn Green, Cancer Research Manager at The Center for Cancer Prevention and Treatment, Robert Howal, U.S. Site Partnership Manager at Sanofi, and moderated by Liz Beatty, Chief Strategy Officer at Inato, to discuss how we can unlock site potential by engaging diverse populations and leveraging technology. A summary of the discussion is below and you can access a recording here.
Accessing Diverse Populations in Today’s Climate
The panelists shared how their organizations are working to access more diverse populations. Robert Howal spoke about how Sanofi works across 60+ countries which results in some diversity but they are working to be more intentional about making sure those who don’t have access to clinical trials are included. “We’re looking in the mirror and checking our own internal biases, too. We’re thinking about how we can be better corporate citizens and empower everyone in our ecosystem in the most burdenless way,” said Robert.
Joscelyn Green raised the point that when trying to reach diverse patient populations, it’s not enough to simply exist in the community. Rather, you must ensure you’re serving that community. Joscelyn shared how The Center for Cancer Prevention and Treatment deploys outreach teams who go to local churches, forums and events. Virtual events and social media are crucial too, especially in the age of COVID-19. Joscelyn said, “There are disparities within more diverse communities that mean these people often can’t come to us. It goes a long way to see us out there in their community.”
Overcoming a lack of trust is a significant obstacle when trying to recruit more diverse patients, so Joscelyn stressed the importance of reacting accordingly to body language and tone. “Sometimes it’s best to not wear your white coat when you first meet a skeptical patient. Remember the history that exists for different cultural groups. Frame this as an opportunity but never, ever push them. Understand where they currently are and empathize with them.
How COVID-19 is Impacting Clinical Trials
Joscelyn shared that the pandemic has boosted her organization’s cancer trials. “Cancer hasn’t stopped because of COVID-19. And the pandemic has actually helped spread the word about the importance of clinical trials.”
For patients already enrolled in trials, The Center of Cancer Prevention and Treatment is making the experience as safe as possible by leveraging telehealth. “Mobile technology has been huge, because a lot of people don’t have access to a computer or a printer, but almost everyone has a smartphone. Zoom and FaceTime are key for virtual appointments. Technology has allowed patients to still be very involved and know that we’re here for them,” said Joscelyn.
Robert shared that they’ve seen slower startup times at Sanofi for some trials due to reprioritization at sites, but none of their trials had to stop. “The big silver lining has been COVID-19 pushing us to make it easier for sites to function and patients to be accommodated. The pandemic has energized decentralization and forced us to come to where patients already are,” said Robert.
Sanofi is also working to help its sites leverage telehealth technology as effectively as possible by prioritizing integration over disruption. “If a site asks for help, we’re not going to dictate how a certain technology should function, because it’s different for everyone. We want to help and enable them, and co-create a new future throughout all of this,” added Robert.
Key Factors to Consider When Expanding Patient Pools
To end the webinar, the panelists shared the most important factors to consider when trying to expand patient pools.
Robert said, “We need equal access to care. We need to re-establish trust and make trial experiences as pleasant as possible. Because the conclusion is forgone: We’re all mortal. So at some point the majority of us are going to have to rely on clinical trials.”
From Joscelyn’s perspective, getting the word out is critical. She added, “To establish trust, we need to rehabilitate the population’s relationship with pharmaceutical organizations and trial sites. We need to leverage technology to streamline processes between sponsors and sites, because that impacts study success. Ultimately, we need to be equipped to totally focus on our patients, no matter who they are or where they live.”
To access a recording of the panel discussion, including questions from the audience and the accompanying slide deck, please visit: https://event.on24.com/wcc/r/2632501/474F7E1AF07B89B21BE5ED75B2F177D2\