Publication date: Aug 29, 2023
The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic created major disruptions in the conduct of cancer clinical trials. In response, regulators and sponsors allowed modifications to traditional trial processes to enable clinical research and care to continue. We systematically evaluated how these mitigation strategies affected data quality and overall trial conduct. This study used surveys and live interviews. Forty-one major industry and National Cancer Institute Network groups (sponsors) overseeing anticancer treatment trials open in the United States from January 2015 to May 2022 were invited to participate. Descriptive statistics were used for survey data summaries. Key themes from interviews were identified. Twenty sponsors (48. 8%; 15 industry and five Network groups) completed the survey; 11/20 (55. 0%) participated in interviews. Sponsors predominantly (n = 12; 60. 0%) reported large (≥11 trials) portfolios of phase II and/or phase III trials. The proportion of sponsors reporting a moderate (9) or substantial (8) increase in protocol deviations in the initial pandemic wave versus the pre-pandemic period was 89. 5% (17/19); the proportion reporting a substantial increased dropped from 42. 1% (n = 8/19) in the initial wave to 15. 8% (n = 3/19) thereafter. The most commonly adopted mitigation strategies were remote distribution of oral anticancer therapies (70. 0%), remote adverse event monitoring (65. 0%), and remote consenting (65. 0%). Most respondents (15/18; 83. 3%) reported that the pandemic had minimal (n = 14) or no impact (n = 1) on overall data integrity. Despite nearly all sponsors observing a temporary increase in protocol deviations, most reported the pandemic had minimal/no impact on overall data integrity. The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated an emerging trend toward greater flexibility in trial conduct, with potential benefits of reduced burden on trial participants and sites and improved patient access to research.