As you all know, clinical trial participation is both crucial for medical advancement and important treatment options, at times the only one, for patients with cancer. Also we know that a very low percentage of patients with cancer worldwide enrol into such clinical trials. So different factors have been implicated in underlying this low participation but we decided through Belong.Life, which is an application, a social media application, for patients with cancer and caregivers which is a free anonymous and worldwide available application, we decided to look at the patients’ and caregivers’ perceptions, the knowledge, their knowledge and their experience with clinical trials. We assessed it via a unique digital health platform which is specialised in cancer patients.
What was the methodology of your study?
We sent a survey to patients with a variety of cancers, 290 North American patients and Israeli patients, members of the social media application Belong.Life. They anonymously and voluntarily replied to our ten question survey which detailed their demographics and diagnosis and experience with clinical trials as a treatment option.
What were the key findings?
Of these patients, of the 290 patients that participated, as I said, 73% were based in North America and the majority were females, a ratio of 1:3. So as a result of that the most common diagnosis was breast cancer followed by lung cancer, colorectal cancer and ovarian cancer. Most of the patients, nearly 60% of them, were in advanced stages, stage 3 and 4.
What we saw is that nearly half of the patients, 46% of the patients, had not heard about clinical trial participation as a treatment option. They were not familiar with chemotherapy as a treatment option. Most of them, 92%, replied that they would like to know more about it and they were concerned that they never heard about it before. When they heard about it, they heard it in a third of the patients from their medical staff, but also 26% of the patients heard it by surfing the internet and from multiple online resources and 25% heard it from our own Belong application because one of the things that the application does is offer these patients free to have their clinical situation matched for a clinical trial wherever they are. So that was mainly what was found in this survey.
What would the impact of these results be on the future of clinical trials?
Due to the fact that only half of the patients were aware of clinical trial participation then there is a huge gap. That gap of the patients that did not receive any information or didn’t have any information before, they expressed an enormous interest to be better informed for the future. So we believe that medical staff is a key source for clinical trials awareness and while patients are exposed to multiple online sources of information still they require a lot of input coming from the medical staff. Some emphasis should be placed in providing personally tailored clinical trials information to all cancer patients and caregivers at the time of diagnosis. I believe that the trial confirms that digital health platforms are an important source for patient clinical trial awareness.
Is there anything else that you would like to add?
I would like to reinforce what I just said just now and would like to see that clinical trials are always, when possible, offered as a treatment option to our patients. When that happens then we will see that the percentages of patient recruitment into clinical trials will be much higher than the current one.