Rethinking Clinical Trials

Support cancer  clinical trials at  The Ottawa Hospital.  Every dollar you give today will be doubled up to $1 million.Connie Chartrand never needed The Ottawa Hospital until she was diagnosed with breast cancer in May 2017.

The healthy, active, 53-year-old, who lives in Russell, had surgery on May 29, then immediately began a series of chemo and radiation treatments at The Ottawa Hospital Cancer Centre and its satellite treatment centre at the Winchester District Memorial Hospital, followed by hormone therapy.

“Being diagnosed is pretty life-changing,” said Connie. “You feel for other women who are going through this, and so I wanted to give back for the care I was receiving to help other women.”

Connie offered to participate in clinical trials. She knew how important these studies were, not only to the success of her own treatment but to her fellow patients, as well. Her oncologist Dr. Mark Clemons suggested she was an ideal candidate for the Rethinking Clinical Trials (REaCT) Program.

Connie Chartrand is a breast cancer patient participating in a REaCT program.

Clinical trials offer an optimum way to improve treatment for cancer patients. The current challenges are that clinical trials are complex and costly to administer. Less than three percent of cancer patients in Canada are enrolled in clinical trials, in part because of the lengthy paperwork required for each patient’s involvement, as well as regulatory hurdles that often make simply opening a trial too expensive and time consuming to do. This means many patients do not gain access to the new drugs and therapies, which may enhance their lives but are only available through clinical trials.

In 2014, Dr. Clemons and Senior Scientist Dr. Dean Fergusson, along with their colleagues at The Ottawa Hospital looked at ways to improve the clinical trial process to make it easier for more patients to participate, and developed the REaCT Program. The goal of the program is to give every cancer patient access to a clinical trial that may benefit them.

“I was open to any treatment that was new and innovative. The REaCT trial procedures were straightforward and easy to understand,” said Connie who ended up participating in three REaCT Trials.

By streamlining the process for obtaining oral, rather than written, consent, it is easier for more patients to enter clinical trials. Using a mobile device and simplified data collection, patients can be randomized into treatment groups quicker and more efficiently. In just over two years, The Ottawa Hospital recruited 1,200 patients into the REaCT program to participate in 11 randomized trials.Drs. Clemons and Fergusson’s REaCT program conducts practical patient-focused research to ensure patients receive optimal, safe, and cost effective treatment. These trials help advance research by collecting data in order to improve treatments, as well as gain insight and knowledge about how to treat other patients with the same diagnosis.

Image: (Clemons and Fergusson) caption: Oncologist Dr. Mark Clemons and Senior Scientist Dr. Dean Fergusson established the REaCT program at The Ottawa Hospital.“It really felt like Dr. Clemons made a personalized trial for me,” said Connie.

There are currently 11 active REaCT clinical trials running at The Ottawa Hospital in collaboration with other hospitals across Canada, such as Edmonton, Kitchener, Kingston, London and Newmarket. The majority of these trials focus on breast cancer and prostate cancer patients.

By supporting the REaCT clinical trials program at The Ottawa Hospital, you are contributing to the changing landscape of care within our city. By increasing our patients’ access to clinical trials, we are advancing our research and improving care to save lives.