It would be too easy to say that last week’s CTO 2018 Clinical Trials Conference was an immense success – but it was. A sold-out event with 400 people speaks for itself. It was held in Toronto at the Sheraton Centre Hotel over two days chalked full of intrinsic speakers and panels discussing clinical research, clinical trials, and patient engagement.
The first day brought us wonderful opening remarks from the Honourable Reza Moridi, Minister of Research, Innovation and Science, and was followed by Brian Goldman as the morning’s keynote speaker.
Brian Goldman is an ER physician, author and radio broadcaster of CBC’s White Coat, Black Art but chose to direct his keynote towards clinical trials in the age of disruption. Disruptive innovation has become a powerful change in health care, amongst many other industries. He defined exactly what disruptive innovation was with recent examples and its potential implications in health care – clinical trials, big data, clinical research.
To kick off the first panel was Jason Field, president and CEO of Life Sciences Ontario as a moderator of the evolving clinical research environment. The panel facilitated discussion on how to adapt to changes and how patients, health care and the economy will be impacted now and in the future.
In response to a question regarding what the health care society could do better from a patient perspective, Bev Heim-Myers, CEO of the Huntington Society of Canada says, “We could start to do it better by including the patient voice early in the protocol setup. So, when we are creating clinical trial preparation guides, when we are creating tools so that clinicians can work with patients and create a decision guide, when we’re creating everything like that, more and more we are including a patient voice and the lived experience with the experts.”
As the day progressed there were speakers touching on future strategies, why Canada has a health care system, the misalignment of evidentiary interests and clearing the path ahead. An engrossing one-on-one interview after lunch with Francis Plummer, professor of medicine and medical microbiology from the University of Manitoba about a lesson in preparedness and how his work with the Ebola vaccine was a prime example of pre-empting what may happen, so that when and if it does, society will have a cure or at least a way to face it.
Clinical trials simply do not happen without participants, so the second panel brought patients and caregivers of patients to the stage to share their stories and experiences. They brought to life what the health care community works for and to and their advice on helping others find and join a clinical trial was instrumental.
The second day did not disappoint. Robert Bell, Minister of Health and Long-Term Care gave the opening remarks and welcomed the keynote speaker Ken Getz, director of sponsored research programs and research associate professor from the Tufts Center for the Study of Drug Development. Coincidently, he was also the keynote speaker at the very first Clinical Trials Conference that CTO put on a few years back; allowing him to describe first-hand how much it had grown and the benefits and impact this conference has on the clinical trials environment. He examined the current global operating environment for clinical research and specific areas where patient engagement practices and initiatives are being implemented.
Patient engagement with clinical trials remains a hot topic and largely uncharted territory. The first panel explored these models of patient engagement to give a voice to patient perspectives, quality of life values, and treatment experiences so that the health care system can get access to the drugs patients need sooner and create more robust trials and outcomes.
Following that, Molly Shoichet, Ontario’s first Chief Scientist was the interviewee of the day and went into detail about Canada’s research strengths, her aspirations for Ontario and Canada, and the innovation economy.
The remaining panels covered current interests such as big data in healthcare to advance opportunity and mitigate privacy risks, and how to advance ways to streamline the conduct of clinical trials and make Ontario and Canada a better place to have them executed. They engaged the audience in fruitful discussions and answered many burning questions from the listeners.
The two days compressed a wealth of knowledge, aspirations, and innovative ideas for the future of clinical trials in Ontario and Canada and left guests with an eagerness to start down that road.
“What excites me most about the CTO Conference is how it brings together people from across the clinical trials community – and we all care about the same things – to learn more about clinical trials, about each other, and how we can collectively make more high-quality available to patients,” states Susan Marlin, president and CEO, Clinical Trials Ontario.