A New Framework for Patient Engagement in Cancer Clinical Trials Cooperative Group Studies
For the past two decades, the National Cancer Institute (NCI) has supported the involvement of patient advocates in both internal advisory activities and funded research projects to provide a patient perspective. Implementation of the inclusion of patient advocates has varied considerably, with inconsistent involvement of patient advocates in key phases of research such as concept development. Despite this, there is agreement that patient advocates have improved the patient focus of many cancer research studies.
This commentary, published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, describes our experience designing and pilot testing a new framework for patient engagement at SWOG, one of the largest cancer clinical trial network groups in the United States and one of the four adult groups in the NCI’s National Clinical Trials Network (NCTN). Our goal is to provide a roadmap for other clinical trial groups that are interested in bringing the patient voice more directly into clinical trial conception and development. We developed a structured process to engage patient advocates more effectively in the development of cancer clinical trials and piloted the process in four SWOG research committees, including implementation of a new Patient Advocate Executive Review Form that systematically captures patient advocates’ input at the concept stage.
Based on the positive feedback to our approach, we are now developing training and evaluation metrics to support meaningful and consistent patient engagement across the SWOG clinical trial life cycle. Ultimately, the benefits of more patient-centered cancer trials will be measured in the usefulness, relevance, and speed of study results to patients, caregivers, and clinicians.