A Montreal oncologist is involved in a pan-Canadian effort to allow exposed and positive COVID-19 patients to find a clinical trial without having to leave their homes.
“It is sort of like a tinder for research,” said Dr. Nathaniel Bouganim, an Assistant Professor at the Gerald Bronfman Department of Oncology in the Faculty of Medicine of McGill University “We currently have over 10,000 visits a day.”
Dr. Ramy R. Saleh, the initiator of the project and a physician at the MUHC, notes that globally, thousands of researchers and many billions of dollars are being invested in research to develop clinical trials and treatments in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Canadian researchers from coast-to-coast are at the forefront of these efforts.
“Speed matters, but our current clinical trial infrastructure doesn’t support speed,” Dr. Saleh quotes from his study. “ Canadian patients with COVID-19 are all too willing to volunteer for these trials for the benefit of their fellow citizens. However, neither patients nor their healthcare providers are fully aware of the trials underway, or whether the patient meets the precise criteria for any particular trial. Researchers, likewise, have trouble finding patients who meet their recruitment criteria, especially in the outpatient setting.”
While eligibility criteria vary by trial, you can register if you:
• Are convalescing at home with a COVID-19 diagnosis;
• Are hospitalized with COVID-19;
• Have recovered from the illness;
• Have been exposed to someone with COVID-19;
• Are willing to participate in a control group (vaccine trials).
Dr. Bouganim completed his training in internal medicine and oncology at McGill University and his sub-specialty training in breast cancer, focusing in bone metastases and “patient centered care” with Dr. Mark Clemons at the Ottawa Integrative Cancer Centre. He has received numerous awards, including from the AACR (American Association for Cancer Research) and the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation.
At the McGill University Health Centre (MUHC) Dr. Bouganim notes that given how oncology patients are at a higher risk for COVID related complications , they have created cold zones within the hospital. “The oncology department is closed off from the hospital and patients as well as staff need to be screened and allowed access to the center,” he said. “We have limited patient visits to a minimum and have made every effort to keep the center clean and protected from Covid. We still treat all patients with chemotherapy in a safe and protected environment. No one knows and can predict how things will go in the next weeks or year, but what is for sure is that we need to be ready and prepared for possibly another peak after the summer months."
Dr. Bouganim emphasizes that oncologists design and execute clinical trials daily. “Our field is continuously influxed with new treatment options,” he says. “ For this reason many oncologist are part of the COVID-19 trials. We have the ‘know how’ to create, recruit and complete trials under pressure.”
For all of the details on the study go to www.covidtrials.ca.