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July 8, 2021

Application of Information Technology to Clinical Trial Evaluation and Enrollment: A Review

Author Affiliations
  • 1Department of Internal Medicine, Division of Hematology-Oncology, The University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, Dallas
  • 2Harold C. Simmons Comprehensive Cancer Center, The University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, Dallas
  • 3Southwestern Health Sciences Digital Library and Learning Center, The University of Texas, Dallas
  • 4Department of Population and Data Sciences, The University of Texas, Southwestern Medical Center, Dallas
JAMA Oncol. 2021;7(10):1559-1566. doi:10.1001/jamaoncol.2021.1165

Importance  As cancer treatment has become more individualized, oncologic clinical trials have become more complex. Increasingly numerous and stringent eligibility criteria frequently include tumor molecular or genomic characteristics that may not be readily identified in medical records, rendering it difficult to best match clinical trials with clinical sites and to identify potentially eligible patients once a clinical trial has been selected and activated. Partly because of these factors, enrollment rates for cancer clinical trials remain low, creating delays and increased costs for drug development. Information technology (IT) platforms have been applied to the implementation and conduct of clinical trials to improve efficiencies in several medical fields, and these platforms have recently been introduced to oncologic studies.

Observations  This review summarizes cancer and noncancer studies that used IT platforms for assistance with clinical trial site selection, patient recruitment, and patient screening. The review does not address the use of IT in other aspects of clinical research, such as wearable physical activity monitors or telehealth visits. A large number of IT platforms (which may be patient facing, site or investigator facing, or sponsor facing) are now commercially available. These applications use artificial intelligence and/or natural language processing to identify and summarize protocol eligibility criteria, institutional patient populations, and individual electronic health records. Although there is an expanding body of literature examining the role of this technology, relatively few studies to date have been performed in oncologic settings.

Conclusions and Relevance  This review found that an increasing number and variety of IT platforms were available to assist in the planning and conduct of clinical trials. Because oncologic clinical care and clinical trial protocols are particularly complex, nuanced, and individualized, published experience with this technology in other fields may not be fully applicable to cancer settings. The extent to which these services will overcome ongoing and increasing challenges in cancer clinical research remains unclear.

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