Oncology clinical trial disruption during the COVID-19 pandemic: a COVID-19 and cancer outcomes study

Z. Bakouny, C. Labaki, S. Bhalla, A. L. Schmidt, J. A. Steinharter, J. Cocco, D. A. Tremblay, M. M. Awad, A. Kessler, R. I. Haddad, M. Evans, F. Busser, M. Wotman, C. R. Curran, B. S. Zimmerman, G. Bouchard, T. Jun, P. V. Nuzzo, Q. Qin, L. HirschJ. Feld, K. M. Kelleher, D. Seidman, H. Huang, H. M. Anderson-Keightly, T. El Zarif, S. Abou Alaiwi, C. Champagne, T. D. Rosenbloom, P. S. Stewart, B. E. Johnson, Q. Trinh, S. M. Tolaney, M. D. Galsky, T. K. Choueiri, D. B. Doroshow

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


Background: COVID-19 disproportionately impacted patients with cancer as a result of direct infection, and delays in diagnosis and therapy. Oncological clinical trials are resource-intensive endeavors that could be particularly susceptible to disruption by the pandemic, but few studies have evaluated the impact of the pandemic on clinical trial conduct. Patients and methods: This prospective, multicenter study assesses the impact of the pandemic on therapeutic clinical trials at two large academic centers in the Northeastern United States between December 2019 and June 2021. The primary objective was to assess the enrollment on, accrual to, and activation of oncology therapeutic clinical trials during the pandemic using an institution-wide cohort of (i) new patient accruals to oncological trials, (ii) a manually curated cohort of patients with cancer, and (ii) a dataset of new trial activations. Results: The institution-wide cohort included 4756 new patients enrolled to clinical trials from December 2019 to June 2021. A major decrease in the numbers of new patient accruals (−46%) was seen early in the pandemic, followed by a progressive recovery and return to higher-than-normal levels (+2.6%). A similar pattern (from −23.6% to +30.4%) was observed among 467 newly activated trials from June 2019 to June 2021. A more pronounced decline in new accruals was seen among academically sponsored trials (versus industry sponsored trials) (P < 0.05). In the manually curated cohort, which included 2361 patients with cancer, non-white patients tended to be more likely taken off trial in the early pandemic period (adjusted odds ratio: 2.60; 95% confidence interval 1.00-6.63), and substantial pandemic-related deviations were recorded. Conclusions: Substantial disruptions in clinical trial activities were observed early during the pandemic, with a gradual recovery during ensuing time periods, both from an enrollment and an activation standpoint. The observed decline was more prominent among academically sponsored trials, and racial disparities were seen among people taken off trial.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)836-844
Number of pages9
JournalAnnals of Oncology
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 2022


  • COVID-19
  • cancer
  • clinical trials


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