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Ning Ning, Jingsheng Yan, Xian-Jin Xie, and David E. Gerber

Purpose: The NCI requirement that clinical trials at NCI-designated cancer centers undergo scientific review in addition to Institutional Review Board review is unique among medical specialties. We evaluated the impact of this process on protocol development and content. Methods: We analyzed cancer clinical trials that underwent full board review by the Harold C. Simmons Cancer Center Protocol Review and Monitoring Committee (PRMC) from January 1, 2009, through June 30, 2013. We analyzed associations between trial characteristics, PRMC decisions, and protocol modifications using Chi-square testing, Fishers exact testing, and logistic regression. Results: A total of 226 trials were analyzed. Of these, 77% were industry-sponsored and 23% were investigator-initiated. Initial PRMC decisions were: approval (40%), provisional approval (52%), deferral (7%), and disapproval (1%). These decisions were associated with study sponsor (P<.001) and phase (P<.001). Ultimately, 97% of industry-sponsored and 90% of investigator-initiated trials were approved (P=.05). Changes were requested for 27% of industry-sponsored trials compared with 54% of investigator-initiated trials (P<.001). Total changes requested (mean, 5.6 vs 2.4; P<.001) and implemented (mean, 4.6 vs 2.1; P=.008) per protocol were significantly greater for investigator-initiated trials. Changes related to study design were more commonly requested (35% vs 13% of trials) and implemented (40% vs 5% of trials) for investigator-initiated trials compared with industry-sponsored trials (P=.03). Conclusions: NCI-mandated scientific protocol review seems to have a substantial impact on investigator-initiated trials but less effect on industry-sponsored trials. These findings may provide guidance on development and prioritization of institutional protocol review policies.

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Matthew Perez, Caitlin C. Murphy, Sandi L. Pruitt, Sawsan Rashdan, Asal Rahimi, and David E. Gerber

Background: Many individuals with cancer have survived a prior cancer and for this reason may have been excluded from clinical trials. Recent NCI guidance recommends including these individuals, especially when the risk of the prior malignancy interfering with either safety or efficacy endpoints is very low. Using breast cancer as an example, we determined the potential effect this policy change may have on clinical trial accrual. Patients and Methods: We reviewed protocols of NCI-sponsored breast cancer clinical trials activated in 1991 through 2016. We quantified prevalence of prior cancer-related exclusion criteria and assessed the association with trial characteristics using Fisher’s exact tests. Using SEER data, we estimated the prevalence and timing of prior primary (nonbreast) cancer diagnoses among patients with breast cancer. Results: Among 87 clinical trials (total target enrollment, 137,253 patients), 77% excluded individuals with prior cancer, most commonly (79%) within the preceding 5 years. Among trials with radiographic response or toxicity endpoints, 69% excluded prior cancer. In SEER data, the prevalence of a prior (nonbreast) cancer diagnosis ranged from 5.7% to 7.7%, depending on breast cancer stage, of which 39% occurred within 5 years of the incident breast cancer. For trials excluding prior cancer, the estimated proportion of patients excluded for this reason ranged from 1.3% to 5.8%, with the estimated number of excluded patients ranging from 1 to 288. Conclusions: More than three-fourths of NCI-sponsored breast cancer clinical trials exclude patients with prior cancer, including almost 70% of trials with response or toxicity endpoints. Given that >5% of patients with breast cancer have a history of prior cancer, in large phase III trials this practice may exclude hundreds of patients. Following recent NCI eligibility guidance, the inclusion of patients with prior cancer on breast cancer trials may have a meaningful impact on accrual.

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Nikhil Khushalani, David Gerber, Jeffery W. Clark, Wells Messersmith, Tricia Heinrichs, Nicole Zion, and Jordan Berlin

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David E. Gerber, Thomas Y. Sheffield, M. Shaalan Beg, Erin L. Williams, Valerie L. Clark, Yang Xie, M.E. Blair Holbein, Celette Sugg Skinner, and Simon J. Craddock Lee

Background: During the COVID-19 public health emergency, the FDA and NIH altered clinical trial requirements to protect participants and manage study conduct. Given their detailed knowledge of research protocols and regular contact with patients, clinicians, and sponsors, clinical research professionals offer important perspectives on these changes. Methods: We developed and distributed an anonymous survey assessing COVID-19–related clinical trial adjustment experiences, perceptions, and recommendations to Clinical Research Office personnel at the Harold C. Simmons Comprehensive Cancer Center. Responses were compared using the Fisher exact test. Results: A total of 94 of 109 contacted research personnel (87%) responded. Among these individuals, 58% had >5 years’ professional experience in clinical research, and 56% had personal experience with a COVID-19–related change. Respondents perceived that these changes had a positive impact on patient safety; treatment efficacy; patient and staff experience; and communication with patients, investigators, and sponsors. More than 90% felt that positive changes should be continued after COVID-19. For remote consent, telehealth, therapy shipment, off-site diagnostics, and remote monitoring, individuals with personal experience with the specific change and individuals with >5 years’ professional experience were numerically more likely to recommend continuing the adjustment, and these differences were significant for telehealth (P=.04) and therapy shipment (P=.02). Conclusions: Clinical research professionals perceive that COVID-19–related clinical trial adjustments positively impact multiple aspects of study conduct. Those with greatest experience—both specific to COVID-19–related changes and more generally—are more likely to recommend that these adjustments continue in the future.