Crowdsourcing Contest to Discover Clinical Trial Innovations

Published Oct-26-15

Three novel ideas to increase clinical trial patient enrollment win crowdsourcing contest.

Bonnie J. Addorio Lung Cancer Foundation/Free to Breathe, United States

The Story:

Crowdsourcing Contest to Discover Clinical Trial Innovations Cancer is one of the world's biggest killers and consequently the focus of a colossal amount of research activity. Clinical trials are the best way to discover what is the best kind of treatment for the disease and is how cutting-edge pharmaceutical research advances.

Yet, of the more than 45,000 cancer-related clinical trials worldwide (U.S. National Institutes of Health database), over 20% will never be completed. And one of the biggest reasons for this is lack of participating patients.

To increase the number of cancer patients taking part in clinical trials, the Bonnie J. Addorio Lung Cancer Foundation (ALCF) and Free to Breathe joined forces to launch the Clinical Trial Innovation Prize.

Low Patient Participation

According to the crowdsourcing contest's website, only 3% of patients enroll in clinical trials and many are unaware that a clinical trial maybe a treatment option. Among the barriers that prevent people from participating are:

• Fear of the unknown, equating participation with being a “guinea pig”
• The distance they may have to travel to get to a trial site
• Not knowing how to search for clinical trials
• Not knowing which trial might be most suitable

New Source of Ideas

The contest organizers wanted to cast the net for ideas far and wide, because despite 50 years of trying, the medical community hasn’t developed transformative solutions to increase the accrual rate of cancer clinical trials.

The contest took place in 2015 and was open to everyone; patients, doctors, researchers, physicians and the general public. More than 100 innovators and 14 teams from 18 countries took part, including some from Nigeria, Israel and the United States.

Crowdsource Contest Winners

First prize and a check for $20,000 went to Helynx, a start-up composed of researchers from Caltech, UCLA, Harvard and a cardiothoracic surgeon at City of Hope, a cancer hospital in California. Their innovation is called "Match Point: Matching Patients and Trails via EHR" and uses machine learning techniques to read patients' electronic records, linking them to the most suitable trials. Then the software sends patients an email informing them about those trials. As of October 2015, the software was being trialed in 13 community centers affiliated with City of Hope.

Second prize and a check for $5,000 were awarded to Dr. Matt Geber and Deanna Teoh of the Gynecologic Oncology Department at the University of Minneapolis for their app, "Fast, Fun & Friendly: Build Trust Before Research". It includes video and other forms of content that explain the benefits of clinical trials and the care patients will receive.

There was also a People's Choice Award, determined by public voting. The winner was Noah Craft of Science37 for his Network Oriented Research Assistant (NORA), a wearable device that gives patients real-time video and telephone access to clinical trial staff.

Success with Crowdsourcing

The crowdsourcing contest was deemed a success, and the ALCF is now monitoring the progress of the winning innovations and guiding them towards implementation.

“The Innovation Prize competition is doing exactly what we wanted it to do,” said Bonnie J. Addario, founder of the ALCF. “And that’s generating new ideas that could potentially help people suffering from cancer. Increased participation in clinical trials provides the opportunity to accelerate the pace of research and drug development, which could allow patients to live longer and better lives.”


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