May 6, 2021

Canadian Remote Access Framework for Clinical Trials brings new opportunities for cancer patients residing in rural and remote communities

The Canadian Cancer Clinical Trials Network (3CTN), has launched the proof-of-concept phase of the Canadian Remote Access Framework for Clinical Trials (CRAFT), which aims to broaden trial options for eligible cancer patients, regardless of where they live in Canada. Clinical trials are an important part of the cancer care system, particularly for those who have exhausted standard treatment options. Those who are far from a regional cancer centre where a trial may be available often face immense hurdles to participating, such as travel cost and time. CRAFT employs a hub and spoke, ‘trial cluster’ model, wherein the trial centre provides oversight for a patient’s community health centre to serve as a satellite site.

With funding support received from the Canadian Partnership Against Cancer, CRAFT was created by a collaborative group of patient partners, clinical researchers, trial sponsors, healthcare institutions, research ethicists and representatives from Health Canada who were united in a common vision to promote equity in the cancer system through improved opportunities for clinical trial participation for all eligible Canadian patients. When fully implemented, CRAFT aims to address many of the regulatory, ethical, legal and practical barriers that can impede the conduct of clinical trials in rural and remote communities.

Through CRAFT, centres interested in collaborating on a given trial can draw from resources created to support setup and oversight that assures patients receive the same level of quality and safety regardless of where they are seen. Funding provided by 3CTN will support proof-of-concept of CRAFT at three locations across Canada over the coming year:

Primary centre: Health Sciences Centre, Eastern Health: St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador
EXCITE Corporation/Central Newfoundland Regional Health Centre (Grand Falls – Windsor)
Western Memorial Regional Hospital (Corner Brook)
Leader: Dr. John Thoms

Primary centre: Health Sciences North: Sudbury, Ontario
Sault Area Hospital
Timmins District Hospital
Leader: Dr. Lacey Pitre

Primary centre: BC Cancer: Prince George, British Columbia
Mills Memorial Hospital (Terrace)
Kootenay Boundary Regional Hospital (Trail)
Leader: Dr. Robert Olson

“I am thrilled that through the CRAFT initiative we can start eliminating the barriers that exist for cancer patients in rural and remote communities in Canada,” says Dr. Janet Dancey, Scientific Director of 3CTN. “Thank you to all of our partners who came together to create a truly innovative solution that will move us closer to achieving equity in access to cancer clinical trials. We are confident that this proof-of-concept project will show that CRAFT is an effective approach and provide a springboard to expand the initiative.”

“As Newfoundlanders and Labradorians, we have all experienced challenges with regards to access to healthcare. Our beautiful province can act as a major barrier when considering accessibility to clinical trials for cancer patients living outside of the metro region. Everyone deserves access to the best possible level of care, despite geographic location,” says Stephanie Mayne of Newfoundland and Labrador, a patient partner and CRAFT working group contributor. “CRAFT provides us the opportunity to overcome these barriers and improve access to clinical trials. I am extremely proud to say that patients played a key role in shaping the framework and look forward to seeing its success.”

“We are excited to partner with local health authorities in B.C., including Northern Health and Interior Health, to facilitate clinical trial follow-up in patients’ home communities,” says Dr. Robert Olson, of BC Cancer in Prince George, B.C. “General practitioners in partner communities will undergo clinical trial training and help with patient follow-up, physical exams, and adverse event reporting, enabling patients from more remote communities, including First Nations, to commit to the multi-year follow-up programs needed for clinical trials.”

“Conducting clinical trials is a complex undertaking as there are many factors that must be considered such as regulations, trial requirements and the patient’s needs. CRAFT provides us with a comprehensive approach to conducting clinical trials in community hospitals by giving us the tools and resources we need to reach patients in remote communities,” says Christopher Lavoie, Clinical Research Supervisor at Health Sciences North in Sudbury, Ontario. “Our team is excited to be one of the first to implement CRAFT and we can’t wait to see the positive impact it has on patients in our communities and beyond.”

About the Canadian Cancer Clinical Trials Network

Established at the Ontario Institute for Cancer Research (OICR) in 2014, the Canadian Cancer Clinical Trials Network (3CTN) is a not-for-profit, pan-Canadian initiative aimed at supporting and improving the efficient delivery of academic cancer clinical trials through funding, resources and advocacy to improve the clinical trial environment and increase patient access to cancer clinical trials. Clinical trials are a vital component of Canada’s cancer care system and are essential to advancing cancer research to bring new solutions to patients. Funding for 3CTN operations is provided by OICR and the Canadian Partnership Against Cancer. Core funding for 3CTN member cancer centres is provided by provincial cancer agencies.