Can Cancer Trial Apps Boost Enrollment?


Participation in clinical trials – and cancer trials in particular – is agonizingly low. The National Cancer Institute has estimated that less than 5% of patients participate in cancer trials. But that could possibly change with the growing availability of applications for smart phones and tablets that instantly link clinicians and patients with ongoing trials.

Just as the American Society for Clinical Oncology was starting off its annual meeting, Eli Lilly announced that it was launching a clinical trials app. According to Lilly, the free app is available for the Apple iPad and iPhone, the RIM BlackBerry, and the Google Android. Physicians – or patients – can use the app to search oncology trials that are enrolling new patients by disease state, molecule being studied, study phase, country, state, and keyword.

Screenshot of Lilly Oncology Clinical Trials Resource

The Lilly app also links patients and clinicians to resources such as support groups, financial help, and nutritional counseling, for instance. Because it was developed by a drug maker, it also prominently features a search tool for Lilly-sponsored trials. Other than that, it appears to be very comprehensive and easy to use.

Lilly is not the first manufacturer to venture into a trials app. Last June, GlaxoSmithKline, in partnership with MedTrust Online LLC, launched a similar app that lets users search for trials for all cancer types. Unlike the Lilly app, it does not try to push users towards GSK-sponsored trials. It, too, appears to be very comprehensive and easy to use.

The National Cancer Institute also has a free app, but only lets patients search for trials at the National Institutes of Health campus in Bethesda, Maryland. As I attempted to explore the app, however, it crashed multiple times. Not a good omen.

Screenshot of MedTrust search

Similarly, the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance has created an app – but it is narrowly focused only on trials for acute myeloid leukemia at its member facilities.

iHealthVentures LLC has created an app with the snappy name of "Clinical Research Trials" that allows users to search all of database. It costs $1.99.

As more Americans turn to smartphones and tablets to manage their lives and health, these trial apps could come in handy. And maybe even save or extend lives by getting people enrolled earlier in protocols that could help them.

Just an aside – has a link to ongoing trials on its website here. And it has just launched a free app that features the latest news and views in the field.

–Alicia Ault (@aliciaault on Twitter)

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