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The coronavirus pandemic has presented an extreme challenge for cancer clinical trials, with many shutting down completely in the spring and others struggling to recruit patients too afraid of Covid-19 to risk entering hospitals or clinics. But researchers say there’s been an unexpected silver lining: The many innovations they rapidly ushered into place to make it safer and easier to access clinical trials are working so well for both patients and researchers, they may stay in place long after the epidemic ends.

“People are talking about how the future has been accelerated by this pandemic. Cancer research has been accelerated as well,” said Joe Unger, a health services researcher and biostatistician with the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle who tracked how clinical trial enrollment fell off this spring as the pandemic surged. “People and institutions are adapting in such innovative ways. It’s really inspiring.”


Many of the changes have been enabled by new guidance federal agencies quickly released in the spring, but many institutions have also embraced tools that were always allowed, but rarely used, in clinical trials.

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