Smartphone apps aim to increase clinical trial participation

Two apps developed at the University of Buffalo are meant to help patients find clinical trials, as well as help doctors find new treatment options for patients.

By Stephen Feller

BUFFALO, N.Y., June 1 (UPI) -- With studies showing many Americans are not inclined to take part in a clinical trial, researchers at the University of Buffalo think the most modern method of attracting attention could help -- making an app for it.

Two smartphone apps developed by researchers at the university are designed to help patients interested in new treatments find clinical trials appropriate to their conditions and allow doctors to direct patients to clinical trials that would benefit from.


A recent study at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center found more than one-third of Americans would not choose to participate in a clinical trial and more than half of doctors do not consider suggesting a trial until later in the treatment of most patients.

Researchers in Buffalo said one reason drugs take so long to reach the market, slowing the flow of new treatments, is because of the extended amount of time it takes to enroll enough participants in clinical trials.

Many trials only enroll 5 to 10 percent of eligible adults, and in some cases just 5 percent of patients who were interested in participating in a trial complete it, according to the researchers. By making it easier for doctors to find a trial to meet their patients' needs, or more often allowing the public to find a trial that fits their own health situation, these trial slots will be easier to fill.


"This app has the potential to significantly speed enrollment in clinical trials and the translation of basic research into new therapies to benefit our patients," Dr. Peter Elkin, chair of the department of biomedical informatics in the school of medicine at the University of Buffalo, said in a press release. "By allowing patients to essentially self-recruit, this app empowers individuals to more actively participate in improving their health and the health of their communities."

The smartphone app, the development of which was funded using a Clinical and Translational Science Award, is based on computer system called PartSci, which accesses clinical research in a user's region, collecting them in a database using natural language.

Using keyword searches for medical conditions or types of clinical trial, users can find a study that interests or applies to them, sending their contact information to study coordinators who can recruit them for participation. The doctor-driven app is similar, but allows for more specific, local searches based on what their patients need.

"A key goal of the CTSA grant is to improve patient access to medical innovations available in our region through clinical trials," Elkin said. "We've developed a cell phone app that allows patients to quickly and easily evaluate clinical trials, the time commitment involved and the location of the study nearest their home."


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