Emerging from a 2-year pandemic, the work-from-home revolution has led to the migration of staff to the pharmaceutical industry or contract research organizations.
Clinical research in oncology is at a crossroads and in a crisis. Although oncology clinical trial research was always challenging, the pandemic presented unique challenges where patients, physicians, and staff were often physically separated and had to develop unique solutions to enroll and remain on trials. Emerging from a 2-year pandemic, the work-fromhome revolution has led to the migration of staff to the pharmaceutical industry or contract research organizations (CROs).
Now, the effect on clinical trial development, regulatory management, and accrual is being felt. A number of creative solutions to retain staff have emerged, including fl exible work hours and locations but organizations running the trials simply cannot keep up with the differential compensation and work flexibility afforded by industry partners.
Furthermore, there is an additional, embedded cost to the academic and NCI-designated cancer centers’ clinical research operations. Consider the 6 to 12 months it takes to identify, hire, and train these individuals in the nuances and responsibilities of well-conducted clinical research trials. This not only increases budgetary diffi culties at the cancer centers and clinical research offices, but eventually slows recruitment and is counterproductive to what the industry and CROs hope to accomplish.
A number of oncology research organizations such as the American Society of Clinical Oncology, American Association for Cancer Research, and the Society of Immunotherapy for Cancer are actively developing task forces to address the staffi ng and accrual crisis. It should be noted that staff are not the only ones lost from cancer centers: Our experienced oncologists, the trialists themselves, may see industry as a more attractive environment for contributing to the impact in the fi eld of oncology.
Ultimately this will have a long-term dampening effect on progress, so it is gratifying that our oncology organizations and societies are recognizing that we are all on the same team—the patient’s team—in the hopes of developing and speeding progress in cancer clinical trials and oncology research to develop new therapies. Solutions are needed and only through mutual understanding of the issues that have existed for some years, and were accelerated by the pandemic and post-pandemic job shifts, will we address these issues with viable solutions.