PRINCIPLE 7: Research and clinical trials

PRINCIPLE 7: Research and clinical trials

Research and clinical trials play an important role in establishing the efficacy and safety of diagnostic, prognostic and therapeutic interventions, as well as establishing the role of psychological, supportive care and palliative care interventions (Sjoquist & Zalcberg 2013).

Clinical trials are the foundation for improved cancer outcomes, allowing new treatments to be tested and offering patients access to potentially more effective therapies than otherwise available to them.

Clinical trials are available for multiple types of cancer and may be a valuable option for people with rare, difficult-to-treat conditions for which there may be limited evidence about how the condition is best treated or managed (Australian Clinical Trials 2015).

Treating specialists and multidisciplinary teams should be aware of or search for clinical trials that may be suitable for their patients. Specialists should be willing to refer appropriate patients to other treating centres to participate in research or clinical trials at any stage of the care pathway and be willing to discuss the pros and cons of participating in such trials. Any member of the multidisciplinary team can encourage cross-referral between clinical trials centres. Possible ineligibility to participate in a clinical trial should be discussed with the patient. Acknowledge disappointment and offer support in this instance.

Health services should strive to implement policies and procedures that facilitate equitable access to clinical trials for all patients, including culturally diverse patients, regional patients and those from Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander communities.

The use of telehealth technology, such as the Australasian Tele-trial Model, hopes to improve access to trials for patients being treated in rural and regional areas (COSA 2016).

Australian Cancer Trials is a national clinical trials database. It provides information on the latest clinical trials in cancer care, including trials that are recruiting new participants. Search for a trial via its website.

You can also search the Australian New Zealand Clinical Trials Registry, the Australasian Leukaemia and Lymphoma Group trials website, ClinTrial Refer or for international studies.

The Australasian Myeloma Research Consortium is the only myeloma-specific clinical trials group in Australia and New Zealand.

Australian & New Zealand Childrens Haematology/Oncology Group for clinical trials for children and adolescents.

Education and training

Research and clinical trials provide an opportunity to educate health professionals who are in training. Cancer centres may be affiliated with teaching hospitals, universities or research groups to promote higher education or to develop the academic workforce, leading to more sustainable practice. Specialists should be encouraged to take up and retain active membership to professional societies and organisations that can assist with professional development opportunities.