How to deal with a temporary suspension and restarting your trial: our experiences and lessons learnt.
ABSTRACT: Whilst the issues around early termination of randomised controlled trials (RCTs) are well documented in the literature, trials can also be temporarily suspended with the real prospect that they may subsequently restart. There is little guidance in the literature as to how to manage such a temporary suspension. In this paper, we describe the temporary suspension of a trial within our clinical trials unit because of concerns over the safety of transvaginal synthetic mesh implants. We also describe the challenges, considerations, and lessons learnt during the suspension that we are now applying in the current COVID-19 pandemic which has led to activities in many RCTs across the world undergoing a temporary suspension.There were three key phases within the temporary suspension: the decision to suspend, implementation of the suspension, and restarting. Each of these phases presented individual challenges which are discussed within this paper, along with the lessons learnt. There were obvious challenges around recruitment, delivery of the intervention, and follow-up. Additional challenges included communication between stakeholders, evolving risk assessment, updates to trial protocol and associated paperwork, maintaining site engagement, data-analysis, and workload within the trial team and Sponsor organisation.Based on our experience of managing a temporary suspension, we developed an action plan and guidance (see Additional File 1) for managing a significant trial event, such as a temporary suspension. We have used this document to help us manage the suspension of activities within our portfolio of trials during the current COVID-19 pandemic.
Project description:<b>Background: </b>Recruitment to randomised controlled trials (RCTs) can be challenging, with most trials not reaching recruitment targets. Randomised feasibility studies can be set up prior to a main trial to identify and overcome recruitment obstacles. This paper reports on an intervention-the QuinteT Recruitment Intervention (QRI)-to optimise recruitment within a randomised feasibility study of surgical treatments for patients with Dupuytren's contracture (the HAND-1 study).<br><br><b>Methods: </b>The QRI was introduced in 2-phases: phase 1 sought to understand the recruitment challenges by interviewing trial staff, scrutinising screening logs and analysing audio-recorded patient consultations; in phase 2 a tailored plan of action consisting of recruiter feedback and training was delivered to address the identified challenges.<br><br><b>Results: </b>Two key recruitment obstacles emerged: (1) issues with the recruitment pathway, in particular methods to identify potentially eligible patients and (2) equipoise of recruiters and patients. These were addressed by liaising with centres to share good practice and refine their pathway and by providing bespoke feedback and training on consent discussions to individual recruiters and centres whilst recruitment was ongoing. The HAND-1 study subsequently achieved its recruitment target.<br><br><b>Conclusions: </b>Transferable lessons learnt from the QRI in the feasibility study will be implemented in the definitive RCT, enabling a "head start" in the tackling of wider issues around screening methods and consent discussions in the set up/early recruitment study phases, with ongoing QRI addressing specific issues with new centres and recruiters. Findings from this study are likely to be relevant to other surgical and similar trials that are anticipated to encounter issues around patient and recruiter equipoise of treatments and variation in recruitment pathways across centres. The study also highlights the value of feasibility studies in fine-tuning design and conduct issues for definitive RCTs. Embedding a QRI in an RCT, at feasibility or main stage, offers an opportunity for a detailed and nuanced understanding of key recruitment challenges and the chance to address them in "real-time" as recruitment proceeds.
Project description:The incidence of cardiovascular disease and STEMI is on the rise in sub-Saharan Africa. Timely treatment is essential to reduce mortality. Internationally, prehospital 12 lead ECG telemetry has been proposed to reduce time to reperfusion. Its value in South Africa has not been established. The aim of this study was to determine the effect of prehospital 12 lead ECG telemetry on the PCI-times of STEMI patients in South Africa. A multicentre randomised controlled trial was attempted among adult patients with prehospital 12 lead ECG evidence of STEMI. Due to poor enrolment and small sample sizes, meaningful analyses could not be made. The challenges and lessons learnt from this attempt at Africa's first prehospital RCT are discussed. Challenges associated with conducting this RCT related to the healthcare landscape, resources, training of paramedics, rollout and randomisation, technology, consent and research culture. High quality evidence to guide prehospital emergency care practice is lacking both in Africa and the rest of the world. This is likely due to the difficulties with performing prehospital clinical trials. Every trial will be unique to the test intervention and setting of each study, but by considering some of the challenges and lessons learnt in the attempt at this trial, future studies might experience less difficulty. This may lead to a stronger evidence-base for prehospital emergency care.
Project description:A large amount of preparation goes into setting up trials. Different challenges and lessons are experienced. Our trial, testing a treatment for nodding syndrome, an acquired neurological disorder of unknown cause affecting thousands of children in Eastern Africa, provides a unique case study. As part of a study to determine the aetiology, understand pathogenesis and develop specific treatment, we set up a clinical trial in a remote district hospital in Uganda. This paper describes our experiences and documents supportive structures (enablers), challenges faced and lessons learned during set-up of the trial. Protocol development started in September 2015 with phased recruitment of a critical study team. The team spent 12 months preparing trial documents, procurement and training on procedures. Potential recruitment sites were pre-visited, and district and local leaders met as key stakeholders. Key enablers were supportive local leadership and investment by the district and Ministry of Health. The main challenges were community fears about nodding syndrome, adverse experiences of the community during previous research and political involvement. Other challenges included the number and delays in protocol approvals and lengthy procurement processes. This hard-to-reach area has frequent power and Internet fluctuations, which may affect cold chains for study samples, communication and data management. These concerns decreased with a pilot community engagement programme. Experiences and lessons learnt can reduce the duration of processes involved in trial-site set-up. A programme of community engagement and local leader involvement may be key to the success of a trial and in reducing community opposition towards participation in research.
Project description:<h4>Background</h4>Smartphone-based technology is developing at high speed, and many apps offer potential new ways of monitoring and treating a range of psychiatric disorders and symptoms. However, the effects of most available apps have not been scientifically investigated. Within medicine, randomized controlled trials (RCTs) are the standard method for providing the evidence of effects. However, their rigidity and long time frame may contrast with the field of information technology research. Therefore, a systematic review of methodological challenges in designing and conducting RCTs within mobile health is needed.<h4>Objective</h4>This systematic review aimed to (1) identify and describe RCTs investigating the effect of smartphone-based treatment in adult patients with a psychiatric diagnosis, (2) discuss methodological challenges in designing and conducting individual trials, and (3) suggest recommendations for future trials.<h4>Methods</h4>A systematic search in English was conducted in PubMed, PsycINFO, and EMBASE up to August 12, 2019. The search terms were (1) psychiatric disorders in broad term and for specific disorders AND (2) smartphone or app AND (3) RCT. The Consolidated Standards of Reporting Trials electronic health guidelines were used as a template for data extraction. The focus was on trial design, method, and reporting. Only trials having sufficient information on diagnosis and acceptable diagnostic procedures, having a smartphone as a central part of treatment, and using an RCT design were included.<h4>Results</h4>A total of 27 trials comprising 3312 patients within a range of psychiatric diagnoses were included. Among them, 2 trials were concerning drug or alcohol abuse, 3 psychosis, 10 affective disorders, 9 anxiety and posttraumatic stress disorder, 1 eating disorder, and 1 attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder. In addition, 1 trial used a cross-diagnostic design, 7 trials included patients with a clinical diagnosis that was subsequently assessed and validated by the researchers, and 11 trials had a sample size above 100. Generally, large between-trial heterogeneity and multiple approaches to patient recruitment, diagnostic procedures, trial design, comparator, outcome measures, and analyses were identified. Only 5 trials published a trial protocol. Furthermore, 1 trial provided information regarding technological updates, and only 18 trials reported on the conflicts of interest. No trial addressed the ethical aspects of using smartphones in treatment.<h4>Conclusions</h4>This first systematic review of the methodological challenges in designing and conducting RCTs investigating smartphone-based treatment in psychiatric patients suggests an increasing number of trials but with a lower quality compared with classic medical RCTs. Heterogeneity and methodological issues in individual trials limit the evidence. Methodological recommendations are presented.
Project description:PURPOSE:Incorporating a patient's genotype into the clinical decision-making process is one approach to precision medicine. The University of Florida (UF) Health Precision Medicine Program is a pharmacist-led multidisciplinary effort that has led the clinical implementation of six gene-drug(s) pairs to date. This study focuses on the challenges encountered and lessons learned with implementing pharmacogenetic testing for three of these: CYP2D6-opioids, CYP2D6/CYP2C19-selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, and CYP2C19-proton pump inhibitors within six pragmatic clinical trials at UF Health and partners. METHODS:We compared common measures collected within each of the pharmacogenetic implementations as well as solicited feedback from stakeholders to identify challenges, successes, and lessons learned. RESULTS:We identified several challenges related to trial design and implementation, and learned valuable lessons. Most notably, case discussions are effective for prescriber education, prescribers need clear concise guidance on genotype-based actions, having genotype results available at the time of the patient-prescriber encounter helps optimize the ability to act on them, children prefer noninvasive sample collection, and study participants are willing to answer patient-reported outcomes questionnaires if they are not overly burdensome, among others. CONCLUSION:The lessons learned from implementing three gene-drug pairs in ambulatory care settings will help shape future pharmacogenetic clinical trials and clinical implementations.
Project description:One challenge in caring for patients with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is a paucity of approved therapeutics for treatment of the diverse disease manifestations. In the last 60 years, only one drug, belimumab, has been approved for SLE treatment. Critical evaluation of investigator initiated and pharma-sponsored randomized controlled trials (RCTs) highlights barriers to successful drug development in SLE, including disease heterogeneity, inadequate trial size or duration, insufficient dose finding before initiation of large trials, handling of background medications, and choice of primary endpoint. Herein we examine lessons learned from landmark SLE RCTs and subsequent advances in trial design, as well as discuss efforts to address limitations in current SLE outcome measures that will improve detection of true therapeutic responses in future RCTs.
Project description:UNLABELLED:: Patient and public involvement (PPI) in research is increasingly required, although evidence to inform its implementation is limited. OBJECTIVE:Inform the evidence base by describing how plans for PPI were implemented within clinical trials and identifying the challenges and lessons learnt by research teams. METHODS:We compared PPI plans extracted from clinical trial grant applications (funded by the National Institute for Health Research Health Technology Assessment Programme between 2006 and 2010) with researchers' and PPI contributors' interview accounts of PPI implementation. Analysis of PPI plans and transcribed qualitative interviews drew on the Framework technique. RESULTS:Of 28 trials, 25 documented plans for PPI in funding applications and half described implementing PPI before applying for funding. Plans varied from minimal to extensive, although almost all anticipated multiple modes of PPI. Interview accounts indicated that PPI plans had been fully implemented in 20/25 trials and even expanded in some. Nevertheless, some researchers described PPI within their trials as tokenistic. Researchers and contributors noted that late or minimal PPI engagement diminished its value. Both groups perceived uncertainty about roles in relation to PPI, and noted contributors' lack of confidence and difficulties attending meetings. PPI contributors experienced problems in interacting with researchers and understanding technical language. Researchers reported difficulties finding 'the right' PPI contributors, and advised caution when involving investigators' current patients. CONCLUSIONS:Engaging PPI contributors early and ensuring ongoing clarity about their activities, roles and goals, is crucial to PPI's success. Funders, reviewers and regulators should recognise the value of preapplication PPI and allocate further resources to it. They should also consider whether PPI plans in grant applications match a trial's distinct needs. Monitoring and reporting PPI before, during and after trials will help the research community to optimise PPI, although the need for ongoing flexibility in implementing PPI should also be recognised.
Project description:Background: Studies within trials (SWATs) present an opportunity to examine design factors that may impact on the successful delivery of trials. One area in need of research is trial recruitment. Recruiting patients to trials is a major challenge facing trialists. Failure to meet recruitment targets can result in delays and underpowered studies. This SWAT evaluates the effectiveness of hand-held digital multimedia presentation of trial information and standard written patient information to potential participants on recruitment and retention to a host trial. Methods: This is the protocol for SWAT 15, a two-group, embedded parallel randomised controlled trial (RCT) (ISRCTN12838042) designed within a host trial - the SATIN trial (ISRCTN88111427), a RCT designed for implementation in the Irish primary care setting. The SWAT eligibility criteria was determined by the host trial. General practices who agree to participate in the host trial will provide women (participants) who are willing to consider participating in the host trial with either a multimedia digital information resource facilitated through a handheld tablet device, plus a written participant information leaflet (Intervention) or a written participant information leaflet (comparator). Outcomes are recruitment and retention to the host SATIN trial and participant's quality of decision-making. Discussion: Although designed to be implemented in a host trial, the host trial, was suspended and therefore this SWAT was not implemented. The protocol and the lessons learnt whilst developing it offer guidance to researchers who wish to answer similar research questions in the future in a similar context or setting. Trial registration: ISRCTN Registry ISRCTN12838042 (11/10/2017).
Project description:Clinical trial success depends on appropriate management, but practical guidance to trial organisation and planning is lacking. The Incident Command System (ICS) is the 'gold standard' management system developed for managing diverse operations in major incident and public health arenas. It enables effective and flexible management through integration of personnel, procedures, resources, and communications within a common hierarchical organisational structure. Conventional ICS organisation consists of five function modules: Command, Planning, Operations, Logistics, and Finance/Administration. Large clinical trials will require a separate Regulatory Administrative arm, and an Information arm, consisting of dedicated data management and information technology staff. We applied ICS principles to organisation and management of the Prehospital Use of Plasma in Traumatic Haemorrhage (PUPTH) trial. This trial was a multidepartmental, multiagency, randomised clinical trial investigating prehospital administration of thawed plasma on mortality and coagulation response in severely injured trauma patients. We describe the ICS system as it would apply to large clinical trials in general, and the benefits, barriers, and lessons learned in utilising ICS principles to reorganise and coordinate the PUPTH trial.Without a formal trial management structure, early stages of the trial were characterised by inertia and organisational confusion. Implementing ICS improved organisation, coordination, and communication between multiple agencies and service groups, and greatly streamlined regulatory compliance administration. However, unfamiliarity of clinicians with ICS culture, conflicting resource allocation priorities, and communication bottlenecks were significant barriers.ICS is a flexible and powerful organisational tool for managing large complex clinical trials. However, for successful implementation the cultural, psychological, and social environment of trial participants must be accounted for, and personnel need to be educated in the basics of ICS.ClinicalTrials.gov, NCT02303964 . Registered on 28 November 2014.
Project description:Conducting research can be time consuming, difficult and challenging. Guidance and pragmatic advice focussing on randomised controlled trial conduct are available but do not necessarily constitute comprehensive guidance. A successful trial is one that recruits to time and target and collects high-quality data within the originally agreed budget. Standardised trial management tools have outlined key project management elements for a successful trial as a method of ensuring good practice in research trials: initiation, planning, execution, monitoring and closure. Lessons are also frequently learnt during the development and conduct of trials but rarely shared for the benefit of others. For the wider research team, the key focus will always be on the execution and delivery of a study. The aim of this study was to evaluate the acceptability of clinical trials management methods, focussing on study execution and monitoring, as implemented in the National Institute for Health Research Health Technology Assessment Programme-funded Obsessive Compulsive Treatment Efficacy Trial (OCTET).Workshops, questionnaires and semi-structured interviews were used to explore acceptability of trial management methods with members of the OCTET Trial research team. Nine members participated in the focus group, 10 completed a questionnaire and 20 were interviewed as part of qualitative work for the main OCTET study. Data was collected and analysed using thematic analysis.Six key themes were identified: support; communication; processes; resources; training and ethos. Clear and open communication, enthusiasm and accessibility of the trial managers and chief investigator were consistently noted as an important facet of the successful running of the trial. Clear resources and training materials were also found to be crucial in helping staff to work within the trial setting. Constructive suggestions were also made for improvement of these resources; for example, including both checklists and flowcharts within trial processes.Organisation, openness and positivity are crucial for executing a trial successfully, whilst clear and focussed processes and resources are essential in monitoring and controlling the trial progress. Although derived from a single study, these findings are likely to be applicable to the successful conduct of all trials. Trial managers should consider developing these elements when setting up a study.Clinical Trial Registry, ID: ISRCTN73535163 . Registered prospectively on 5 April 2011.