In this MD Newsline exclusive interview with hematologist/oncologist Dr. Cheryl Mensah, we discuss how to increase the funding, recruitment, and enrollment of sickle cell disease clinical trials.
How do you think we can increase the funding, recruitment, and enrollment of sickle cell disease clinical trials?
Dr. Cheryl Mensah:
“In order to improve funding for sickle cell disease trials, there needs to be more advocacy and interest at the federal level, in industry and Big Pharma, and charity. I think if there were more interest among these different groups, there would be more funding for sickle cell disease clinical trials. And I think that can happen with patient advocacy and awareness about the need for more funding.
In order to improve recruitment and enrollment, I think there needs to be more education among patients and their families about clinical trials. All medications that go through a clinical trial and get approved by the USFDA require people to enroll in these trials. I think, historically, because of many different factors, there’s hesitation among patients and their family members about signing up and getting involved in clinical trials.
But I think with the proper education and communication among patients, their families, and their doctors, we can improve recruitment and enrollment for these trials.
I think the one thing that we can do as providers and among patient advocacy organizations is to improve communication with patients about clinical trials and the curative therapies that are out there. Historically, when you look at sickle cell disease, it was discovered in the 1900s, but it wasn’t until the 1990s when we had our first medication. And [over] the last few years, we’ve had a few new treatments [that have come out], and there are more treatments, including curative therapies, that are currently in clinical trials.
But the majority of patients are unaware [of or] don’t have access to clinical trials and curative therapies. And I think patients are also fearful of new treatments. But I think that we need to do a better job of educating patients, their families, and providers so we can have more patients enrolled in clinical trials to help move sickle cell disease care forward.”
Responses have been condensed and lightly edited.