Oncology conference to tackle ethical dilemmas

Monday, 20 October, 2014

Health research ethics organisation Bellberry is hosting a congress to discuss some of the ethical dilemmas seen in cancer trials, including access to new treatments for both research participants and later to the wider community. The Challenges of Early Crossover in Clinical Trial Design for Oncology will be held on 22 October at the Hilton Adelaide Hotel and chaired by Emeritus Professor Lloyd Sansom AO.

The ethical dilemma at the heart of the conference is that clinical trials often include a placebo group and a group that is taking the proposed new drug. Professor Sansom noted, “In oncology trials it is becoming more common for patients to be able to switch from the control arm to the test arm, if the test appears to have some benefit over the control.”

Professor Sansom said this switching makes it “difficult to define whether the test therapy actually results in a survival benefit, because the trial has now become unbalanced and a selection bias may be significant”. However, studies which prohibit switching are the subject of potentially conflicting ethical issues, creating challenges for patients, clinicians and regulatory and payer agencies.

The congress will address the ethical and scientific issue of patient switching with the aim to develop an international statement on the issues and options for all the stakeholders. It will be attended by international and national experts representing patients, ethicists, clinicians, regulators, payers, scientists and the pharmaceutical industry.

“We are extremely proud to be able to bring together 45 world-leading experts representing all the stakeholders,” said Bellberry CEO Kylie Sproston. She added, “Oncologists and heath consumer groups at the frontline of treatment and trials will sit alongside regulatory bodies and the health technology agencies, which are often the people who allow access to and fund new treatments.”

The event will result in the development of an agreed statement of good practice, guidelines on approaches and clear agreement on any required next steps, all of which will be presented and debated at the conference. To register for the event, click here.

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