Not enough clinical study participants? UCSF’s new recruitment tool could help

The University of California, San Francisco, has just launched a clinical trial patient recruitment platform.(UCSF)

Insufficient enrollment is one of the biggest challenges lying before clinical trials. A new patient finder tool launched by the University of California, San Francisco, could help by connecting clinical researchers with patients.

The web-based clinical trials platform gives the public a way to interact with the university, providing easier access to and better explanation of ongoing studies.

“The mistake we make all the time is that we use scientific language to describe studies that does not engage or connect with our patients,” Dr. Jennifer Grandis, UCSF Associate Vice Chancellor of Clinical and Translational Research, said in a university news item. “We hear all the time that consent forms and study explanations need to be more accessible both in content and style. We worked hard to make sure UCSF Clinical Trials is a user-friendly experience to support engagement with our diverse community.” 

Unlike the U.S. government-run website, which contains information on almost all clinical trials which seek authorities’ approval, UCSF’s platform is more than just a search tool offering detailed information on the location and length of any clinical research at the university; it also includes information on how clinical trials work, what it takes to participate, and who is qualified to join one, as well as contact information for study teams. An “I’m interested!” button to the right side of each study’s page makes it easy for anyone interested to sign up.

The success of a clinical trial hinges on the recruitment of a sufficient number of participants, but about two-thirds of clinical studies fail to meet patient enrollment goals, according to a 2011 report by the Tufts Center for the Study of Drug Development.

Without enough participants to provide a meaningful sample of the studied group, a clinical project risks taking longer to conduct and therefore costing more, or worse, failure. Another problem is the omission of patient populations who are more than often women and minorities, meaning results might not be applicable to or as effective in those populations.

Just recently, Intec Pharma cut the sample size of 460 volunteers for the phase 3 trial of its Parkinson’s disease candidate AP-CD/LD to just 328 patients and has looked to the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research for additional help in order to complete recruitment on time by the end of 2017.

According to information published by the university, all together 665 trials, which encompass a broad range of fields, are open to new patients. And expansion is already underway, as it is reported that the site has already received funding to include trials information on all five of the UC health campuses. The team is also looking at possibilities to push the system outside the campuses to make a bigger difference in the research community.