Overcoming the impact of the COVID‐19 pandemic on oncology early phase trials and drug development in Asia—Experiences and perspectives of the Asian Oncology Early Phase 1 Consortium – Shimizu – – Asia-Pacific Journal of Clinical Oncology


There was no part 1 trial termination or remedy discontinuation in all 5 Asian nations. Most websites had no restrictions in place that will restrict their skill to completely adjust to the necessities wanted to conduct the early part research. Though the commonest affect was new affected person enrollment being positioned on maintain, which was based mostly on pharmaceutical sponsors’ resolution‐making, the state of affairs different per web site. Japan had most IRB‐submitted part 1 protocol deviations in comparison with different Asian nations. This was seemingly owing to the affected home transportation system, together with the canceling of home flights through the state of emergency (from April 7–Could 25, 2020; Tables 1 and 2).

3.1 Actions taken by Asian oncology part 1 websites through the COVID‐19 pandemic

3.1.1 Hong Kong, HKSAR China

The primary case of COVID‐19 in Hong Kong was recognized on January 23, 2020—a 39‐yr‐outdated male traveler from Mainland China. Regardless of a gentle rise in confirmed circumstances over the previous few months, most circumstances recognized in Hong Kong have been both imported from overseas nations or transmitted via shut contacts of people that had just lately traveled to the nation who have been confirmed COVID‐19 circumstances themselves. A number of particular native clusters, with out anybody having a journey historical past, have additionally been recognized. Luckily, owing to Hong Kong’s prior expertise with SARS in 2003 and the excessive vigilance concerning common masks carrying, hand hygiene, and social distancing enforced within the area since mid‐January, Hong Kong has managed to maintain the variety of confirmed COVID‐19 circumstances beneath management to this point. The implementation of progressively aggressive and decisive measures, together with the closure of faculties and universities after the Chinese language New Yr holidays in late January, advocating earn a living from home for each the members of the civil service and staff of personal enterprises, and the closure of varied leisure services and a ban on public gatherings of over 4 individuals since April 2020 have all contributed to profitable containment. As of Could 31, 2020, there are 1085 confirmed COVID‐19 circumstances and 4 deaths in a densely populated metropolis of over 7.5 million inhabitants in Hong Kong.

All through this era, there was no vital impact on medical oncology service provision throughout the territory within the public sector. Clinics and inpatient wards proceed to operate at full capability. Though some surgical colleagues have decreased their elective non‐oncology operation lists to preserve private protecting tools (PPE), in addition to reserving intensive care beds for doable sufferers with COVID‐19, there have additionally been no adjustments within the staffing and labor allocation to medical oncology companies. The non‐interruption of public transport companies throughout this era and the small geographical footprint of Hong Kong facilitated continuous in‐individual consultations, relatively than the implementation of a telemedicine strategy.

Oncology medical trials that have been actively recruiting sufferers earlier than the onset of the COVID‐19 pandemic are persevering with with out interruptions. Throughout the pandemic, individuals who had already consented to take part and even began collaborating in medical trials have been being cared for on the identical intervals and frequencies as outlined earlier, and protocol deviations from scheduling points have been stored to a minimal. New affected person enrollment price of part 1 research throughout March/April 2020 had no change in contrast with that in March/April 2019 (ie, the variety of enrolled sufferers in 2020 was identical of that in 2019) at CUHK. In response to the Hong Kong Authorities’s COVID‐19 Responsiveness Plan and the Hong Kong Hospital Authority’s “Emergency Response Degree,” which has banned all people, besides sufferers themselves (and one accompanying member of the family), from visiting public hospitals, technically possible medical trial monitoring and web site auditing have been carried out remotely wherever acceptable to the research sponsor and/or medical analysis group (CRO). Additional, new research scheduled to start out within the coming months have had their web site initiation visits carried out remotely via teleconferencing services. This continued functioning of oncology medical trial actions may be very totally different from the strategy adopted by the non‐oncology wholesome volunteers’ part 1 research which have been postponed by our Section 1 Medical Trial Centre.

3.1.2 Japan

In Japan, on April 7, 2020, the federal government declared a state of emergency in response to the quickly growing numbers of COVID‐19 optimistic circumstances in main cities of the Tokyo metropolitan space and three surrounding prefectures (in addition to Osaka, Hyogo, and Fukuoka); though, individuals can not legally be compelled to remain dwelling or companies be compelled to shut within the nation. On the time of the enforcement of the state of emergency, Japan reported 4,257 COVID‐19 optimistic circumstances and 81 COVID‐19 deaths (as of Could 31, 2020, 16 851 contaminated circumstances and 891 deaths).

Even on this state of affairs, the oncology medical trials, together with early part 1 trials, on the NCCH have been functioning nearly usually, aside from a number of momentary limitations, comparable to web site monitoring issues and protocol deviations for emergency and affected person security assurance. To prioritize affected person security, the positioning IRB and ethics committees outlined a course of to report protocol deviations, significantly people who may have an effect on the protection of trial individuals through the pandemic interval. Additional, the NCCH’s principal investigators extensively communicated with pharmaceutical sponsors (to seize particular info within the kind that explains the explanations for lacking information—adjustments to check go to schedules, missed visits, and so forth.—and embrace the prefix COVID‐19 to point relationships) in line with the prevalent healthcare authority steering on COVID‐19 precautions and medical trials. Concerning the non‐availability of regular web site monitoring, all of the mechanisms and various features that have been involved with pharmaceutical sponsors have been utilized to make sure regulatory compliance and the scientific integrity of trial information. The NCCH makes use of a hybrid monitoring model that makes use of each distant monitoring and on‐web site monitoring approaches with restrictions on information assessment for ongoing trial sufferers (ie, via teleconferencing/videoconferencing); nevertheless, this will doubtlessly have an effect on the standard of research. The variety of part 1 trials for which the recruitment of latest trial individuals has been interrupted owing to the affect of COVID‐19; in accordance with pharmaceutical sponsors’ instructions these have been regularly growing since April 2020.

In regards to the home transportation infrastructure for sufferers with most cancers in Japan throughout March and Could 2020, a big discount within the variety of each home flights and bullet trains from all native cities to Tokyo impacted sufferers’ visits to oncology medical research websites in Tokyo; this was regardless of most public transportation companies, together with subways, railways, and buses being accessible with out restriction. The affected person enrollments price was barely impacted by the pandemic: the speed of early part 1 trials, together with first‐in‐human (FIH) part 1 trials (which incorporates the complete course of from acquiring research consent, the total screening course of, and C1D1 dosing) elevated by 35–60% throughout March–April 2020, in comparison with the charges for a similar interval in 2019. This elevated enrollment price in Japan was doubtlessly brought on by a direct improve of slot allocations as some oncology part 1 websites in each the US and a few European nations couldn’t enroll new sufferers in multiregional part 1 trials through the preliminary interval of the pandemic.

Some noteworthy factors are as follows: a number of first‐affected person doses for the research cohort degree‐1 have been efficiently administered instantly after research initiation in a number of world FIH part 1 trials—collectively performed by NCCH Japan and US/EU part 1 websites—regardless of the pandemic state of affairs; and analysis biopsies (ie, serial tumor biopsies for required part 1 trial protocols and non-compulsory procedures) have been performed by the interventional radiology division utilizing a particular commonplace operation process to maximise affected person security assurance in opposition to the elevated pandemic danger. Additional, earlier experiences of different Asian websites (Hong Kong China, South Korea, Singapore, and Taiwan) considerably contributed to the exemplary operation of medical trials in Japan.

3.1.3 Republic of Korea

On Could 31, 2020, the cumulative variety of COVID‐19 optimistic circumstances reached 11 468 and 270 deaths within the Republic of Korea. Primarily based on the information accessible to this point, the every day variety of newly recognized sufferers peaked on February 29, 2020 at 909; nevertheless, this quantity has been reducing regularly and reached lower than 35 a day by early Could 2020.

The federal government carried out preventive methods, comparable to making certain lively polymerase chain response (PCR) testing of suspicious circumstances; social distancing, together with the carrying of face masks; closing colleges and implementing tele‐training; canceling or delaying social occasions; and mandating self‐isolation for 2 weeks in excessive‐danger conditions. The SNUH carried out a sequence of preventive measures as properly. At present, all SNUH guests have a short historical past taking, together with particulars on fever, cough, throat ache, dyspnea, and physique temperature measurement. All admitted sufferers ought to have a detrimental COVID‐19 PCR lead to exams performed not sooner than 48 h earlier than admission. Moreover, the SNUH has particular wards and intensive care items (ICUs) devoted to sufferers who examined optimistic for COVID‐19.

With such preventive measures in place, the SNUH’s oncology clinic and most cancers medical trials middle are working usually. The SNUH’s topic go to schedules are properly‐maintained since home transportation services are working usually. The present every day variety of trial participant visits is nearly the identical as that of previous yr. Nonetheless, COVID‐19 has modified some facets of medical trials. To adjust to the social distancing technique, the teleconferencing platform is getting used for web site analysis and/or initiation visits. The frequency of on‐web site monitoring has decreased and been changed by distant monitoring via teleconferencing or cellphone calls. Some trials operated by world pharmaceutical firms have stopped recruiting new sufferers owing to world logistic points. New affected person enrollment price of part 1 research decreased by 63.5% throughout March/April 2020 in contrast with March/April 2019 interval at SNUH. Additional, the SNUH is rigorously monitoring doable additional results of COVID‐19 on medical trials.

3.1.4 Singapore

In Singapore, the primary COVID‐19 case was recognized on January 23, 2020 in a Chinese language nationwide from Wuhan who had traveled to Singapore three days earlier. The need of growing a multipronged technique to handle this rising pandemic was recognized, and a multi‐ministry taskforce co‐chaired by the Japanese Minister of Well being and Minister of Nationwide Improvement was fashioned. The important thing ideas of the technique have been the discount of imported circumstances by implementing journey restrictions and ringfencing of returning vacationers; additionally containment via social distancing, promotion of fine handwashing practices, and use of PPE (masks), and implementation of rigorous contact tracing and quarantine practices. Anonymized profiles of particular person circumstances have been transparently and quickly communicated to the general public, together with evolving case definitions and changes to the extent and protection of journey restrictions.

As soon as group unfold was confirmed, danger evaluation was raised to the Illness Outbreak Response System Situation Orange on February 7, 2020, which necessitated extra stringent measures, together with temperature screening at workplaces, cancellation of enormous‐scale occasions, and progressive restrictions on sizes of social gatherings. These measures have been calibrated in accordance with the group prevalence (from each imported and native circumstances) of COVID‐19. From a medical help perspective, the Nationwide Centre of Infectious Illness spearheaded case screening, evaluation, and isolation; additional, all public‐ and personal‐sector establishments have been engaged in illness mitigation, and an expanded pool of healthcare staff was mobilized to make sure the continuum of care required by sufferers with COVID‐19, together with group screening, intensive care, and administration of the convalescent part. As of Could 31, 2020, Singapore has had 34 884 circumstances and 23 reported deaths.

On the NCCS, inpatient and outpatient medical oncology groups have been segregated, which enabled the streamlining and continuation of specialist most cancers companies, albeit with some medical workflow modifications. All sufferers and accompanying caregivers have been instructed to put on surgical masks and full a screening questionnaire on journey historical past and respiratory signs. A devoted outpatient clinic and workflow was set as much as assess sufferers with COVID‐19 signs/suspicion. Amongst inpatients, sufferers with pneumonia or respiratory signs (cough, sore throat, runny nostril, anosmia) with shut contact or optimistic journey historical past have been admitted to isolation wards; they usually have been transferred to common wards solely after two detrimental COVID‐19 PCR swabs.

From the part 1 trial unit perspective, the NCCS encountered a number of main challenges. First, owing to the journey restriction in China and evolution of coverage for keep‐dwelling notices, many sufferers who have been on trials might not be noticed within the normal clinic setting. Underneath these circumstances, open communication with trial sponsors, regulatory authorities, and the IRB enabled options based mostly on adherence to ongoing medical and security assessments (each native and thru digital consultations) and the continued provide of the investigational product, for instance, supply to abroad sufferers. Though most sufferers might seek the advice of an area oncologist for help in bodily observe‐up assessments, there have been situations the place stringent restrictions in motion curtailed entry to medical companies, which made distant consultations significantly important. Second, owing to the fluidity of the general public well being emergency, uncertainty in labor exigencies, and evolution of information on COVID‐19 transmission, analysis‐associated actions have been quickly halted. To optimize useful resource utilization, medical trials have been triaged, and components comparable to the extent of proof of medical profit, trial‐associated evaluations that will contravene institutional containment measures, and useful resource availability have been thought of. Lastly, with extra nationwide measures that additional restricted journey and decreased total workforce on April 7, 2020, the enrolment of latest sufferers was placed on maintain, and an analysis of the danger–profit ratio for every medical and protocol‐specified go to was made for ongoing sufferers to steadiness the necessity for continued remedy, affected person security, and danger of COVID‐19 transmission. New affected person recruitment of part 1 research throughout March/April in 2020 was 18% of 2019 (i.e. an 82% discount in affected person recruitment) at NCCS. In parallel, efforts are ongoing to extend and broaden COVID‐19 testing to display for asymptomatic carriers, in addition to leveraging the usage of digital instruments, for instance, the TraceTogether smartphone app, to facilitate contact tracing.

3.1.5 Taiwan

The Taiwanese authorities’s efforts to comprise the worldwide COVID‐19 pandemic are based mostly on its expertise with the 2003 SARS epidemic. On January 20, 2020, the Taiwan Facilities for Illness Management formally activated the Central Epidemic Command Middle—a response mechanism that allows speedy actions throughout public well being crises—for COVID‐19, with the Minister of Well being and Welfare because the designated commander. As of Could 31, 2020, Taiwan reported 442 COVID‐19 optimistic circumstances and 7 deaths in a inhabitants of 23,000,000. The NTUH carried out a number of preventive measures, together with compulsory journey, occupation, contact, and cluster historical past taking and symptom questionnaires for each affected person; necessary surgical masks use by each affected person and companion; and devoted inpatient companies and ICUs for sufferers with COVID‐19. At present, NTUH doesn’t universally display all its sufferers. It screens solely these with fever, cough, dyspnea, rhinorrhea, diarrhea, and dysgeusia on the emergency room or a devoted COVID‐19 screening clinic utilizing in‐home PCR. New affected person enrollment price of part 1 research throughout March/April 2020 decreased by 42% in contrast with that in March/April 2019 at NTUH. To this point, the COVID‐19 state of affairs has not considerably affected the oncology part I trials performed at NTUH. Website initiation/closeout, affected person visits, investigational agent administration, trial‐particular procedures, and on‐web site monitoring/auditing/inspection happen as normal, with the latter being performed on the discretion of related CROs/sponsors/regulatory authorities.


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