An innovative model is currently being implemented at Orange Health Service to expand access to the ASCOLT clinical trial to regional and rural patients. The Teletrial model is being used to establish satellite centres in rural areas, where local clinicians and nurses can work with and on behalf of major treatment centres.
This addresses a key barrier that many rural and regional cancer patients face: distance. Healthcare in rural areas can be difficult to access, as local medical facilities are often smaller and provide a broad range of services. There are fewer specialists and there is high demand. In 2015, the National Health Performance Survey revealed that a third of people in western New South Wales, country Western Australia and country areas in South Australia believed that they had to wait too long to see a doctor.
For cancer patients, especially those eligible for clinical trials, this lack of access can limit treatment options.
“For far too long, our rural population has either missed out on clinical trials or travelled very long distances to participate,” says Dr Rob Zielinski, Medical Oncologist at the Orange Clinical Trials Centre.
Clinical trials are expensive and require extensive amounts of resources, as well as specialised staff. For this reason, they tend to be based in urban areas. This creates difficulties for regional and rural patients involved in clinical trials. Patients are faced with the prospect of making repeated trips over long distances to meet with medical oncologists and access necessary facilities.
This affects the number of those who are willing or able to participate in clinical trials. The process is also challenging for patients who do participate. In the Teletrial model, videoconferencing is used to enable patients to be treated in their home locations, saving them the complications and expenses of repeated travel.
This model opens the door to greater autonomy for rural healthcare. Extending the accessibility of the ASCOLT study will be beneficial for both patients and researchers involved. It has the potential to ensure that patients will not be prevented from participating in clinical trials on the basis of location.
“More trials need to be offered to our region so we can continue to improve the cancer care for our region,” Dr Zielinski says. “The tele-trial model and the pilot will be truly ground breaking as it will be the first of its kind in Australia.”
The ASCOLT STUDY
The ASCOLT study examines the potential anticancer properties of aspirin. There is evidence that taking aspirin daily can reduce the recurrence of cancer. It can also improve rates of disease-free survival in bowel cancer patients. If aspirin is proven to effectively prevent bowel cancer from returning, it could provide a cost-effective treatment method for patients worldwide. More information on ASCOLT is available here.