Apr 01, 2021 10:00 AM

Read Time: 3 minutes

Theresa Werner, MD | Ignacio Garrido-Laguna, MD, PhD

At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, as hospitals worked to keep patients safe, preserve personal protective equipment, and reduce unnecessary medical appointments, Huntsman Cancer Institute (HCI) confronted a major challenge: how to ensure patients had access to promising new cancer treatments in the form of clinical trials.

Clinical trials help find better ways to prevent, diagnose, or treat cancer. These trials evaluate whether drugs shown to be promising and safe in the lab are effective for use by people. Some clinical trials study whether drugs approved for use in one disease can be effective in other diseases. Other trials look at the impact of changing aspects of a treatment, such as drug dosages.

HCI has more than 200 clinical trials open at any given time. Because studying new drugs requires strict guidelines—including the close monitoring of patients—only hospitals that meet the rigorous requirements can administer trials. For patients, taking part in a clinical trial can mean extra clinic visits and frequent check-ins with their care teams. For physician-scientists and clinical research staff, conducting a trial means gathering data to determine whether a drug offers some or all patients a more effective approach than the current standard of treatment.

Thanks to ongoing communication between HCI’s clinical and research leaders and nimble efforts of staff, including research coordinators, infection control specialists, medical oncologists, and nurses, HCI was able to safely keep clinical trials open during COVID-19. Despite the pandemic’s many disruptions, patients could still access a large number of clinical trial options to consider as part of their cancer treatment.

2020 Clinical Research Highlights

HCI made major strides in bringing our clinical trials to cancer patients at more locations:

We prioritized clinical research during the pandemic:

  • Rapidly transitioned 140 clinical trial staff to remote work
  • Revised operating procedures, contracts, and safety monitoring plans
  • Facilitated ways to safely ensure cancer patients could enroll in and stay on clinical trials
  • Opened 112 new trials in 2020, giving patients access to 150–200 trials at any given time

We continued to be recognized nationally as a clinical research leader:

clinical trials cancer research covid-19 coronavirus community report

Cancer touches all of us.

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