Adapting to the Present and Striving for the Future at the AACI-CRI 2020 Conference

Meghan Hosely
July 14th, 2020

For the 12th year in a row, AACI-CRI hosted their annual meeting, inviting staff and research members from cancer centers around the U.S. to network, collaborate, and innovate together. While many were looking forward to meeting in Chicago this year, the conference shifted to an online platform due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Even virtually, participants still had the opportunity to share best practices and address some of the industry’s biggest challenges. Below are a few key takeaways from this year’s conference.

Embracing Technology to Move Forward

Representatives from Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, UT Southwestern Medical Center, University of Florida Health Cancer Center, and Greenebaum Comprehensive Cancer Center presented Harnessing Technology to Improve Cancer Clinical Trials. The presenters outlined steps their institutions took to move to a virtual format while keeping trials moving while working from home.

Highlighting the importance of electronic versions of monitoring, auditing, consenting, the presenters discussed how making the switch for research staff to continue research remotely helped keep their trials moving. These changes decreased face-to-face interactions and potential exposure to both participants and research staff. UFHCC noted both hybrid and fully decentralized investigator-initiated trials (IITs) led to faster recruitment, higher retention rates, and overall convenience to protocol participants.

Additionally, UT Southwestern discussed their pilot study for wearable technology and outlined factors to consider before implementing wearable technology, including:

  • How to respond,
  • Defining the goal,
  • Assessing resources,
  • Defining the wearable instrument, and
  • How to report findings.

Thriving in a New Landscape

Jivan Achreja, Advarra’s chief technology officer and president, technology solutions, presented Building a Foundation to Thrive in a New Clinical Research Landscape. Achreja explained a lot of ongoing challenges the industry faces can be overcome with decentralization, or moving toward a telehealth model. Some key benefits to decentralized trials include improving patient access and experience, increasing patient compliance, reduction of costs, and retention as the protocol moves through phases.

Moving toward a decentralized trial model will also help trials become more participant-centric. Developing new, remote methods to keep at-risk populations safe and taking advantage of the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) and National Institutes of Health (NIH) change guidelines builds a foundation, allowing sites to be agile and deliver a greater experience for the participants.

More than anything, Achreja said it’s important for sites to be agile and to accept change as it comes. As sites are beginning to reopen again, the ones who embrace change and continue to innovate to keep protocols moving will find greater success than the ones who don’t.

Increasing Job Satisfaction, Reducing Turnover

Out of a record-high 77 posters submitted for this year’s meeting, Cleveland Clinic Cancer Center presented on the AACI-CRI Steering Committee’s frontrunner abstract, Standardized and Personalized Training Results in Increased Job Satisfaction and a Reduction in Turnover.

Presenters outlined their process for improving workplace morale and reducing turnover through personalized training. In February 2019, standardized training was created, and as a result, turnover decreased about 9% from 2018 to 2019. Much like everything else in 2020, training has taken a virtual shift. However, presenters reported that even with the shift, training has been successful, with standing video meetings each week and supervisor engagement during training.

An altogether informative and engaging conference, AACI-CRI surely left attendees with practical pieces of information they can take and adapt at their own institutions. At Advarra, we look forward to next year’s conference, engaging with attendees and innovating new ideas to keep research moving forward.