As part of an Australian-first, the clinical trials team at Orange Health Service is launching Teletrials, which will allow more people living in rural and regional areas to participate in clinical trials for cancer treatment.
Western NSW Local Health District is today (Wednesday 13 December) launching Teletrials which is a brand new approach to running cancer clinical trials, turning the model upside down.
Dr Rob Zielinski said that the ground-breaking pilot program is leading the way in clinical trials.
"Instead of patients travelling to the cancer centre for an experimental treatment, the treatment is being delivered to the patient. Videoconferencing is enabling patients to be enrolled and treated in their home location by linking into larger clinical trial sites," said Dr Zielinski.
"The Teletrials method is a complete paradigm shift and will open up far more trials testing novel therapies to regional and rural patients.
"To my knowledge this hasn’t been successfully attempted in Australia or the world. Clinical trials are expensive and are dependent on infrastructure and human resources so traditionally they have been very city centric.
"The majority of my patients decline a trial in Sydney because of the travel and costs associated. This is very challenging for me to accept as a physician and I often ask why my patients must miss out.
"If this Australian-first pilot is successful, the method of running clinical trials will radically change for ever. The Orange clinical trials unit is currently in advanced discussions with a Sydney cancer centre to form a clinical trial network which will open up many more novel cancer therapies to the patients of the Central West."
One man who knows the impact of travelling is Don Wheeler who has been travelling to Sydney from Lyndhurst for almost four years to access an immunotherapy trial.
"I was diagnosed with stage four lung cancer and given six to twelve months to live and that was four years ago.
Now my cancer has reduced by 95 per cent and I’m stable.
"Since 2013 I’ve travelled almost 50,000km to get to the clinical trial. That’s about 80 trips to Sydney and it really knocks you about," said Mr Wheeler.
"You also have to factor in the cost of food and accommodation and the toll it takes on your family and yourself.
"In my opinion there are people out there dying who don’t need to be because at the end of the day you need to have the money to cover the costs associated with getting to the trial.
The first Teletrial is being coordinated from the Orange Clinical Trials Unit which was recently awarded the NSW Premiers Award for outstanding trials unit and will link into Dubbo patients through videoconferencing facilities.
During 2017, the Trials Unit has doubled its trials giving 60 per cent more people access to clinical trials. The Australasian Gastro-Intestinal Trials group awarded the Trials Unit the Outstanding Site Award for 2017, opening up even more trial opportunities for 2018.