Lessons learned: Delivering early phase cancer trials during the COVID-19 pandemic

09 Dec 2020
The teams from ECMC North delivered successfully their first on-line educational event on October 19th 2020. We have now moved to developing the content for the ECMC COVID-19 Community Hub, a curated on-line platform to build on the learnings from the workshops held in October.
More than 160 people attended the online event which started with short plenary talks from Gary Middleton updating on UK CCMP (Coronavirus Cancer Monitoring Project) as well as Carlo Palmieri and Lance Turtle on CCP (Clinical Characterisation Protocol)-Cancer giving delegates a picture of the impact of the pandemic on patients with cancer. Then we moved to discussing the impact on early phase clinical trials and adaptations made to continue delivering these, with presentations from MHRA, ABPI and from the CRUK Manchester Institute Cancer Biomarker Centre’s Digital ECMT on use of digital tools.  We had also been joined by Dr Jonathan Chiwanda from Malawi to give us a global perspective on cancer treatment and research delivery in the pandemic, frustratingly the internet connection failed us at a critical point, however he has kindly recorded his talk for the Community Hub!
The event then moved to 4 workshops where delegates shared experiences in modifications made across the ECMC network to continue early phase research trials clinically, in the laboratory, digitally and also changes from a PPI perspective.  Each workshop was attended by 20 or more delegates, with the PPI workshop having nearly 100 attendees over the afternoon!  Feedback has been excellent with all attendees indicating they enjoyed the event, would attend a future one and improved their knowledge.  In particular one delegate commented “I wasn't looking forward to a virtual conference but I am converted, really enjoyed it” and another “Considering this was the first conference organised and given in this online fashion, very well done, excellent content”.
The exciting but hard work of pulling together the content and discussions from the launch event and developing the Community Hub as a live platform to support us all while we continue to offer experimental trials to our patients is being led by Professor Nicol Keith from Glasgow ECMC, ably supported by a team of “Communication Interns” from each of the ECMC North sites.  Working also with the workshops leads they will pull together the learning points for further development from these forums, with video content from the plenary talks also being made available.
This online resource will be on an open platform, there to help all early phase sites to continue to deliver the high standards of care and offer trials safely to our patients during this pandemic or in the event of future pandemic. It will also showcase best practices, such as rationalisation of investigations and remote monitoring, which we hope will continue after this present situation.
This project is supported by an educational grant from Pfizer, and the ECMC North team is grateful to the ECMC Programme Office for their support for the event