Ahead of International Clinical Trials Day Tomorrow (May 20), Major National Survey Reveals Significant Increase in Support for Clinical Trials

A major nationally-representative survey has revealed that three in five (60%) would be willing to participate in a clinical trial, up from 48% in 2020, rising to four in five if the person was very ill themselves (79%), an increase of 9% on 2020.

The survey was undertaken by Behaviour & Attitudes on behalf of Cancer Trials Ireland during April and May. It comes ahead of International Clinical Trials Day tomorrow, Friday May 20, when Cancer Trials Ireland will host a free public webinar on cancer clinical trials as part of its Just Ask initiative which seeks to encourage patients to ask their doctors if there is a clinical trial suitable for them.

The webinar from 2-3pm will feature cancer clinical trial expert Professor Seamus O’Reilly (consultant medical oncologist and Vice Clinical Lead Cancer Trials Ireland) on how trials work and how to access them, while previous trial participants will share their experiences on what to expect. Members of the public can access the webinar at www.cancertrials.ie/justask

Survey Highlights
The survey also found:

  • Two in five of those surveyed (41 per cent) had experience of cancer either themselves or in their immediate family
  • Four in five (85%) believe clinical trials enable access to new treatment not otherwise available (up from 72% in 2020), while one in four (26%) would participate in a trial specifically to access such a treatment (15% in 2020)
  • One in six (16%) were aware of someone who had taken part in a clinical trial (15% in 2020)
  • Four in five (80%) would be willing to donate blood for use in clinical research (up from 76% in 2020)
  • Nine in ten (88%) think clinical trials are a good idea (up from 77% in 2020)
  • Three-quarters (75%) believe clinical trials have many safeguards, including ethical and regulatory review (up from 62% in 2020)

As for those who said they would be willing to take part in a clinical trial (60%), it is interesting to note that men are more likely than women to sign up (67% of male respondents, versus 54% of females). A sense of altruism is the principal reason for taking part in a clinical trial with three-quarters (75%) hoping to help others get better treatment in the future. This was followed by wishing to cure a disease they might have (55%), improve their health and well-being (55%), have a more active role in their health care if ill (54%), and a desire to have a longer life (51%). The principal disincentive, identified by three in four (73%) of those not willing to become involved in a clinical trial, was a worry about serious side effects.

Need for Harmonised Data Protection Approach
Welcoming the survey results and the increasingly positive attitudes towards clinical trials, Eibhlín Mulroe, CEO, Cancer Trials Ireland, commented:
“It is hugely reassuring to know that there is such wide acknowledgement of the positive benefits of clinical trials which respondents to our latest population survey have shown, and that this has increased since our last research in 2020. Not only do more people think clinical trials are a good idea, but more are willing to take part in a clinical trial themselves.”

However, Ms Mulroe noted there is an urgent need to overhaul trial approval in Ireland:
“Every trial in Ireland has to undergo both ethical and data protection approval, and these are crucial to public confidence in trials. However, there is a clear and present danger that the National Research Ethics Committee (NREC), which is tasked with providing ethical approval for all clinical trials, not just cancer, will not have the resources required to meet a new 55-day turnaround time for trial applications due to come in next year. While this time scale is to be welcomed, the reality right now is that there is not enough staffing or resources in place by NREC to meet this, and if the application timeline for a trial is not met, it will automatically be denied. This is a huge risk to attracting international trials to Ireland, where other countries can do things more quickly and efficiently.

“It is also the case with data protection that we have a situation where we are having to make multiple applications to data protection officers in different hospitals for the same trial. The result is that, depending on the data protection officer, different requirements are being requested of trial investigators. The result is greater bureaucracy, unnecessary duplication, and longer waiting times. We urgently need to standardise this process and have one harmonised approach, if trials are to remain feasible.”

Need to Double Funding
For Prof. Ray McDermott, Consultant Medical Oncologist and Clinical Lead, Cancer Trials Ireland, we need to increase our capacity to run cancer clinical trials in Ireland:
“The National Cancer Strategy has set a target of six per cent of people diagnosed with cancer to be on a clinical trial. Currently, we are at two per cent. This survey shows the public is very positively disposed towards trials and their benefits, and we need to harness this enthusiasm. To get to where we need to be, we need to understand where we are.

“The Department of Health needs to audit our cancer research capacity within hospitals and use this to inform an implementation plan to deliver on the six per cent target. It is my view that we will likely need to at least double current levels of funding, staffing and resourcing, and this audit will help to confirm what’s required.”

Each year, approximately 25,000 people are diagnosed with invasive cancer1 here. In the past 20 years, almost 31,000 (30,770) people have taken part in nearly 800 (786) cancer clinical trials.

To access the Just Ask information booklet, or for a full list of clinical trials taking place in Ireland, visit www.cancertrials.ie/justask. Alternatively, telephone the Irish Cancer Society Cancer Nurseline, Freephone 1800 200 700.

The Just Ask campaign is supported by Pfizer, Roche, AbbVie, MSD, Novartis and Bayer.


Image credit: Morsa Images/DigitalVision via Getty images. Stock photo posed by models.