Early Impact of COVID-19 on the Conduct of Oncology Clinical Trials and Long-Term Opportunities for Transformation: Findings From an American Society of Clinical Oncology Survey

JCO Oncol Pract. 2020 Jul;16(7):417-421. doi: 10.1200/OP.20.00275. Epub 2020 May 12.


The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic has disrupted all aspects of clinical care, including cancer clinical trials. In March 2020, ASCO launched a survey of clinical programs represented on its Cancer Research Committee and Research Community Forum Steering Group and taskforces to learn about the types of changes and challenges that clinical trial programs were experiencing early in the pandemic. There were 32 survey respondents; 14 represented academic programs, and 18 represented community-based programs. Respondents indicated that COVID-19 is leading programs to halt or prioritize screening and/or enrollment for certain clinical trials and cease research-only visits. Most reported conducting remote patient care where possible and remote visits and monitoring with sponsors and/or contract research organizations (CROs); respondents viewed this shift positively. Numerous challenges with conducting clinical trials were reported, including enrollment and protocol adherence difficulties with decreased patient visits, staffing constraints, and limited availability of ancillary services. Interactions with sponsors and CROs about modifying trial procedures were also challenging. The changes in clinical trial procedures identified by the survey could serve as strategies for other programs attempting to maintain their clinical trial portfolios during the COVID-19 pandemic. Additionally, many of the adaptations to trials made during the pandemic provide a long-term opportunity to improve and transform the clinical trial system. Specific improvements could be expanded use of more pragmatic or streamlined trial designs, fewer clinical trial-related patient visits, and minimized sponsor and CRO visits to trial programs.

MeSH terms

  • Betacoronavirus / pathogenicity
  • COVID-19
  • Clinical Trials as Topic
  • Coronavirus Infections / complications
  • Coronavirus Infections / epidemiology*
  • Coronavirus Infections / therapy
  • Coronavirus Infections / virology
  • Humans
  • Medical Oncology*
  • Neoplasms / complications
  • Neoplasms / epidemiology*
  • Neoplasms / therapy
  • Neoplasms / virology
  • Pandemics / prevention & control*
  • Pneumonia, Viral / complications
  • Pneumonia, Viral / epidemiology*
  • Pneumonia, Viral / therapy
  • Pneumonia, Viral / virology
  • SARS-CoV-2
  • United States / epidemiology