The Match, a non-profit organization that delivers life-saving blood stem cell
therapy to patients in need, launched Jason Carter Clinical Trials Search and
Support (CTSS) to help patients with blood cancers or blood disorders and their
loved ones find and participate in relevant trials. CTTI's Aggregate Analysis of ClinicalTrials.gov (AACT) Database was
foundational to the development of the CTSS.
For many people with blood cancers
or blood disorders, treatment through clinical trials provides hope and a
potential cure. But it's not always easy to find these trials. Jason Carter,
who lived with leukemia for four and a half years before passing away at the
age of 28, understood this challenge more than most. He wanted to participate
in trials to give himself the best chance for a cure, but he and his family
struggled to find enrolling trials on ClinicalTrials.gov. They eventually
identified two trials, but it was a cumbersome research process. After Jason
passed away, his parents, Bob and Diana Carter, gave Be the Match a generous
donation to build a program that removes this barrier for families and helps
them locate relevant and enrolling trials for blood cancer or blood disorders through
a patient-friendly clinical trial search tool and one-on-one support with a
clinical trials navigator.
a registry of clinical trials run by the National Library of Medicine and the
National Institutes of Health, provides
information regarding characteristics of past, current, and planned clinical
studies; in addition, registry data are available for bulk download. However,
issues related to data structure, nomenclature, and changes in data collection
over time make aggregate analysis by clinical specialty challenging in
ClinicalTrials.gov. To bring CTSS to life, Be the Match needed a tool for
aggregate analysis of the studies listed in ClinicalTrials.gov related to blood
cancer or blood disorders, and they needed the updated information on a regular
basis. From there, they could rewrite the study descriptions in plain,
patient-friendly language and make it available to anyone via an online search
AACT is a publicly
available relational database developed by CTTI that contains all
information (protocol and result data elements) about every study registered in
ClinicalTrials.gov. Content is downloaded from ClinicalTrials.gov daily and
loaded into AACT, allowing users to quickly access the aggregate data that is
difficult to assemble in ClinicalTrials.gov. AACT offers daily database
refreshes, cloud-accessible database outputs, and
source code available via Github
. For CTSS, AACT
would serve as a foundational tool, providing the aggregate, clinically specific
information needed to develop the trial finder.
team building CTSS first worked to establish criteria for its tool. For
example, they only wanted the search tool to show clinical trials for blood
cancers, blood disorders, or blood or marrow transplants. Trials could be in
phase 1, 2, or 3, but should be interventional studies with sites in the U.S.,
and open for recruitment. With AACT as the foundation for aggregate outputs of
these studies, the CTSS team worked with a vendor to set up a process so that
every night, refreshed clinical trial information meeting these criteria is
pulled from the AACT Database and sent to the CTSS development team. These
updates on new trials are sent via daily emails to the CTSS staff, who then
write a plain language summary of the trial and upload it to the CTSS website
in a searchable format.
also plays an important role in identifying changes to trials already listed on
the CTSS website. For example, when the AACT Database is updated to show that a
trial has closed, that trial is automatically deleted from the CTSS search tool,
so users never have to worry that they will find an outdated study. Likewise,
if a study status has changed in AACT from closed to open again for
recruitment, or if the intervention, description, phase or age changes for a
trial, the CTSS team is notified and updates their site.
Match actively tracks the impact of CTSS. In 2019, their goal was around
building the number of unique contacts to the program, and in 2020, the goal is
around the number of contacts who join clinical trials. As of this writing, CTSS
has helped 100 people find and join trials in their fiscal year 2020. Be The
Match also reports that there is a lot of demand for the program, with new patients
and families reaching out daily.
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CTSS took longer than the team expected to get ramped up, so the CTSS team advises
others in a similar position to give themselves time. There are currently approximately
1,200 trials on the site, and even with the help of a contractor, that process
took six to eight months. It was a lot of work in the beginning to figure out what the style
of writing was for trial descriptions, deciding how to make the templates
adaptable and flexible, but also ensure consistency across the trial
descriptions. The CTSS development team got feedback from patients and
caregivers, and they advise others developing a similar tool to implement such
feedback as early in the process as possible.
know how we would have been able to create this search tool if the AACT system
was not in place," said one employee on the development team for CTSS. "It was
a huge exhale for us when we learned we didn't have to do this all on our own."
work was well worth the effort. The CTSS team now serves as a resource for
patients and their families who, like Jason Carter, are eager to participate in
research to give themselves the best chance of beating their condition.
who have used the CTSS tell us this tool has been invaluable," said one CTSS employee. "We are thrilled that we have delivered on our goal, and we aspire to keep
improving it year after year."