Barriers to conducting cancer trials in Canada: an analysis of key informant interviews
Background In Canada, there is growing evidence that oncology clinical trials units (ctus) and programs face serious financial challenges. Investment in cancer research in Canada has declined almost 20% in the 5 years since its peak in 2011, and the costs of conducting leading-edge trials are rising. Clinical trials units must therefore be strategic about which studies they open. We interviewed Canadian health care professionals responsible for running cancer trials programs to identify the barriers to sustainability that they face.
Methods One-on-one telephone interviews were conducted with clinicians and clinical research professionals at oncology ctus in Canada. We asked for their perspectives about the barriers to conducting trials at their institutions, in their provinces, and nationwide. Interviews were digitally recorded, transcribed, anonymized, and coded in the NVivo software application (version 11: QSR International, Melbourne, Australia). The initial coding structure was informed by the interview script, with new concepts drawn out and coded during analysis, using a constant comparative approach.
Results Between June 2017 and November 2018, 25 interviews were conducted. Key barriers that participants identified were
■ insufficient stable funding to support trials infrastructure and retain staff;
■ the need to adopt strict cost-recovery policies, leading to fewer academic trials in portfolios; and
■ an overreliance on industry to fund clinical research in Canada.
Conclusions Funding uncertainties have led ctus to increasingly rely on industry sponsorship and more stringent feasibility thresholds to remain solvent. Retaining skilled trials staff can create efficiencies in opening and running studies, with spillover effects of more trials being open to patients. More academic studies are needed to curb industry’s influence.