Clinical trial recruitment can be a cumbersome task. More efficient matching of patients to clinical trials can speed up science and make it easier for patients to enrol in the trials best suited to their condition. This is where Onco Trials Tracks comes into play. The platform aims to simplify the recruitment of patients to cancer clinical trials.
Onco Trials Track is a public online platform where patients and their clinicians can filter cancer clinical trials based on tumour type, biomarkers, research centre, etcetera. The website aims to make it easier for clinicians to find suitable clinical trials to recommend to their cancer patients and allow patients to inform themselves about the abundance of clinical trials ongoing.
Formalizing the process of referring patients to suitable clinical trials
Onco Trials Track was developed by a team from the Vall d’Hebron Institute of Oncology (VHIO) in Barcelona, Spain, led by Dr Rodrigo Dienstmann. The platform was developed in the context of EUCANCan.
Dr Dienstmann explains that especially clinical trials focused on rare conditions are increasingly dependent on referral patients from other institutions to meet their recruitment quota.
In the past, referrals between institutions have often been done through informal channels –someone knew someone who had a patient that matched a specific trial. Onco Trials Track will help formalize this process.
Built to scale
In this first stage, Onco Trials Track exclusively includes VHIO clinical trials. The goal is to add more EUCANCan nodes and potentially also other research institutions to the platform in the future.
Establishing a safe connection between Onco Trials Track and VHIO’s clinical trials database took Dr Dienstmann and his team almost a year. Dr Dienstmann explains that maintaining the connection requires both advanced informatics and manual work.
Technical aspects include linking the two databases to ensure that information about changes in a trial can flow efficiently from VHIO’s database to Onco Trials Track. Before this is possible, however, a person with strong medical and research knowledge must look at the specifics of every clinical trial and decide how each should be categorized to match the search criteria on Onco Trials Track.
Dr Dienstmann and his team are documenting what criteria different clinical trials must meet to be categorised a certain way. Establishing clear guidelines will help scale up the process of adding more institutions to the platform eventually.
Demystifying cancer clinical trials
Dr Dienstmann emphasizes how Onco Trials Tracks demystifies the work of research institutions such as VHIO:
“Research at large institutions has sometimes been described as a ‘black box.’ Onco Trials Track improves transparency and thereby helps build public trust in cancer research. All information on our platform is public information. We are simply making this difficult-to-access information easily accessible and available for patients and clinicians everywhere.”
With the Onco Trials Track database in place, it can easily be plugged into other initiatives, such as VHIO’s patient-facing websites or smartphone apps.
Pioneering a new method for clinical trials recruitment in Spain
According to Dr Dienstmann, Onco Trials Track is the first platform of its kind in Spain with focus on cancer biomarkers. Comparable initiatives are, however, ongoing in, for example, Germany and Canada.
In line with EUCANCan’s goal to facilitate genome data sharing between EU and Canada, Onco Trials Track aims to make information about clinical trials available to a broader audience. The initial reception of the platform has been very positive, and Dr Diestmann hopes that uptake of the platform will continue to increase as more clinicians hear about the platform.