New Tool Rapidly Matches Patients to Clinical Trials Based on Patient-Specific Eligibility

Dr. Anthony J. Olszanski
Dr. Anthony J. Olszanski

Enrollment in a clinical trial, a practice sanctioned by the NCCN, is often in a patient’s best interest and gives patients access to therapies not otherwise available. Finding an appropriate oncologic clinical trial that matches specific patient characteristics, however, is frustrating to physicians and patients alike.  

“There are many services that try to find patients for a clinical trial, to meet accrual goals. What’s missing is a way to quickly find clinical trials appropriate for a specific patient,” said Anthony J. Olszanski, MD, RPh, Vice Chair of Fox Chase Cancer Center’s Department of Hematology/Oncology and Director of the Center’s Early Drug Development Phase I Program. “We wanted to develop an easy way to search our large portfolio of trials at Fox Chase, rapidly sort through complex eligibility criteria, and identify the most appropriate trial for a given patient.”

Dr. Eric Ross
Dr. Eric Ross

To do this, a team of Fox Chase physician-investigators and researchers worked together to develop a user-friendly interface that searches through the center’s numerous clinical trials.

“Physicians with a clear idea of what would work best for doctors teamed with Olga Tchuvatkina to execute this vision,” said Eric A. Ross, PhD, ScM, Fox Chase’s Assistant Vice President of Biometrics and Information Sciences.

Tchuvatkina, Manager of Fox Chase’s Population Studies Facility, and her colleagues in the Population Sciences group built a web interface that facilitates rapid searching of all accruing Phase I trials, and provides immediate access to the study details and registration packet. “Dr. Olszanski helped us identify the most critical variables for matching to avoid screen failures later,” Tchuvatkina said.

Olga Tchuvatkina
Olga Tchuvatkina

The data in the interface are current, as it is updated in real time when information is modified in the OnCore clinical trial management system. “For example, we know whether open slots are available in a trial at any given time,” Tchuvatkina said.

It is HIPAA compliant, user friendly, and designed for doctors and nurses to access with a single click. There is also potential for it to be accessed via mobile devices.

With computers in every exam room at Fox Chase, Phase I trials can be identified during patient visits. Physicians can open the interface and enter important variables (i.e., disease site and prior therapy) to find appropriate trials for each individual.

The interface queries the trial database, and only finds trials that the patient would be eligible for. “Once we find a trial, we know it’s a match. We see the protocol number, the investigational drugs and how they work, key inclusion/exclusion criteria, whether biopsies are needed and the contact personnel,” said Olszanski. “We also have immediate access to the consent form.”

In addition to assisting FCCC physicians, the tool also helps referring physicians. “In the past, physicians from outside Fox Chase would call to ask if we had a trial for their patient. We had to collect information and get back to them later. This tool lets our team communicate with referring physicians and potential patients in real time.”

The next step for the interface is to include Phase II and III trials so that all drugs and disease sites, for all therapeutic and non-therapeutic trials, are searchable. It has the potential to be widely applicable across cancer centers, and there are plans for the updated version to be used at Fox Chase and its partner research sites.

Three Things to Know About Fox Chase’s Innovative Clinical Trial Search Tool

  • A new Phase I search tool rapidly matches appropriate clinical trials to specific patients.
  • The new tool emphasizes patient-focused care—finding trials for patients, not patients for trials.
  • There are plans to expand the search tool to include all trials at Fox Chase.