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Guest Expert: Lauren Wood, MD: Maximizing Our Investment in Clinical Research Through Improved Recruitment Tools

Last Updated: Apr 3, 2013

Please welcome this month’s AccrualNet Guest Expert, Lauren Wood, MD. Dr. Wood is a senior clinical investigator in NCI’s Center for Cancer Research and oversees the implementation and clinical translation of research studies investigating vaccines and immune-based therapies for both cancer and HIV infection. She has always recognized the importance of communication in 1) educating underserved populations about cancer research and 2) clinical trials recruitment efforts. She has frequently been a spokesperson for NCI’s Multicultural Media Outreach program, providing a much-needed service to the African American community. Here, she describes a new approach she has taken to inform potential participants about an upcoming vaccine trial.  

Sona Thakkar, MA, AccrualNet Team Member

From Dr. Wood:

If there is one common denominator in all of our work in the cancer clinical trials community, it is the shared frustration of not accruing enough participants to clinical trials in a timely manner to efficiently conduct these critically important scientific studies. No matter how promising the research, the ongoing effort to explain the benefits of clinical trials and reassure potential participants about their safety and integrity can be difficult and is often ineffective when it comes to impacting accrual.  We all want to improve the way information about clinical trials is communicated.

I am hopeful that a novel approach I will begin piloting in February—that includes a short informational video as part of the official recruitment package for a newly opened phase I AdHER2 cancer vaccine trial—will help promote understanding about the trial and, ultimately, enhance accrual. As new communications vehicles like YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, and blogging become more ingrained in the way our culture processes and shares information, we must be prepared to take advantage of this new landscape and leverage these resources to maximize the entire clinical research enterprise.

To this end, I recently recorded two 3-minute videos to post on the NCI Communications YouTube website – one targeted toward patients and one toward healthcare providers – that explain the purpose, approach and science of the trial. The video, in which I talk directly into the camera and use animation technology to demonstrate for viewers how we believe the investigational vaccine might work and how it differs from currently available standard treatments, will, I hope, help humanize our work and give potential participants a greater view and understanding of what they would be contributing to if they enrolled. The video also reinforces the trial’s primary objectives of safety, identifying the best dose of vaccine to give and whether there is any antitumor activity associated with the vaccine in plain language. I believe that seeing and hearing me frame these issues through video, will help potential participants feel more comfortable with the accompanying standard information and informed consent materials that are provided to them.  The video can also be shared with family members and friends that potential participants may consult to assist them in making a decision about whether to participate in the trial.

The idea came to mind a few months ago as I considered the relative effectiveness of e-mail blasts that are routinely sent to practicing oncologists with specific information about different clinical trial options available here at the NCI in Bethesda, MD.  As busy professionals, we all get too many emails and never have enough time to read all of them.  Although people may not have the inclination or time to read an email, they might take the time to watch a brief video that would also allow them to do something else while they were watching it— like having their morning coffee or eating lunch at their desk.  Hence within the e-mail blast will be an embedded web link that goes directly to the posted informational video about our specific clinical trial.  The goal of this pilot project is to determine if the old adage “a picture is worth a thousand words” is really true.

I’ve come to understand the impact that short, effective, message-oriented videos can have as a spokesperson for the NCI Office of Communications and Education. These videos, which have been disseminated to various minority populations to explain cancer research and educate about cancer disparities, have a unique way of helping multicultural communities understand how cancer affects them. I thought that a similar concept might work in reaching potential clinical trial participants. In the development of these informational videos, we have employed some of the same approaches used in developing outreach videos— including message and script development, discussion of background images and illustrations, storyboards and editing.

We plan to evaluate the use of this video tool as a recruitment strategy and to also assess its effectiveness in communicating clinical trial information to potential participants as well as health care professionals. Once the videos are ready for release, I will be back in touch. In the meantime, if any of you have used this particular strategy in your accrual efforts, please share your experience with us. 

Lauren Wood, MD

MARGO's Image

How will these videos be distributed and how evaluated?  This is nice, but was it tested with prospective users? What kind of tailored messages were actually used? 

Linda Parreco's Image

Thanks for your questions, Margo. We're contacting Dr. Wood for her comments. She did work closely with NCI Office of Communicaitons staff to tailor messages that were appropriate for patients and for physicians. In the patient version of the video, it was important to keep the message focused on the phase I goals of the study and to encourage patients to call the dedicated phone line for additional information. Tailoring the message for physicians required explaining technical information that would be appropriate for physicians with varying levels of knowledge about this vaccine and its mechanism of action. 

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