Using the Internet to Recruit Participants in Personalized Trials

The University of Colorado is trying to recruit patients on the internet for a trial to test ponatinib in a rare form of lung cancer.

n the previous few years, several breakthrough treatments have become available for key subtypes of lung cancer. Patients who may benefit from these treatments can be pre-identified by looking for defined genetic abnormalities in their cancer. For example, patients whose lung cancer is driven by rearrangement of the gene ALK derive significant benefit from the drug crizotinib, which targets this abnormality. Many ongoing clinical trials are now attempting to replicate this success by matching different drugs with specific subtypes of the disease based on the presence of such “predictive biomarkers.” However, testing these new drugs in clinical trials requires finding and enrolling patients with what may be very rare molecular subtypes of a disease — one of the challenges is discovering enough needles in enough haystacks to prove the effectiveness of each biomarker-drug pairing.

The University of Colorado Cancer Center is now taking a novel approach to this problem, reaching out via the internet to expand the pool of patients potentially eligible for just such a biomarker-preselected clinical trial. After completing the interactive online screening questions, eligible patients with advanced lung cancer will be consented via the phone to permit a pre-existing biopsy sample of their lung cancer tissue to be shipped to the CU Cancer Center for trial-specific molecular testing. The testing is designed to identify patients who may have lung cancers driven by alterations in the gene FGFR1. Patients whose tumors turn out to be FGFR1-positive and meet the other trial screening criteria will then be offered treatment for their cancer within a clinical trial at CU Cancer Center using the experimental FGFR1 inhibitor drug ponatinib. Ponatinib is already licensed for treating certain blood cancers, but work by CU scientists in laboratory models suggest it may also be a potent agent in some specific molecular subtypes of lung cancer driven by, among other things, changes in the FGFR1 gene.

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Source: University of Colorado