Leapcure is an organization whose work can cut years off research timelines, getting important treatments to patients who need them faster. In the past 12 months, we have seen the speed and efficiency with which the research world has pulled together to develop, approve and distribute vaccines and treatments globally. Considering that the average clinical trial takes 10-12 years to complete this journey, it really puts into context how significant this achievement has been. This begs the question, what does this achievement mean for research generally?
We worked closely with cancer patient organizations in 2020, gathering insights that would support our understanding of the disease burden, the patient experience, and the impact of COVID-19 on specific patient groups. One of the recurring themes was the speed at which the COVID-19 vaccine moved from the development to approval stage, in comparison to the average time an oncology research study may take. Given the prevalence and serious nature of forms of cancer (600,000 deaths per year in the US), this has caused some patients and advocates to hope this process can be replicated for their new cancer therapies in development. At the same time, we’ve seen frustration that this might always have been possible, but was not realized until now.
The increased media coverage of research in relation to COVID-19 has produced more public awareness of research as a whole. There is more engagement and support for research, and conversely, more scrutiny and concern. We have seen what’s possible with shifts in timeline expectations, resourcing and collaborations (including our work with the industry consortium for the Fight is in Us campaign) to get COVID-19 vaccines and treatments prioritized at unprecedented speed.
As such, the divide between those that fully trust the research process, and the anti-vaccination sentiment has grown even wider- with each side digging in their heels and solidifying their perspective as 2020 rolled on. For individuals of the latter opinion, the speed at which COVID-19 therapies reached the public was a common concern. Even for those who don’t fall on either side of this debate, they often aired on the side of caution and leaned towards the opinion that a vaccine that has moved to market so quickly must be less reliable. Leapcure has a unique view into the validity of COVID-19 research – we have seen the patient data and the shift in resourcing that backs up research.
For others, wider understanding of the mechanisms and complexities involved in a research study is critical to public support. Let’s be open about how much time and resourcing went into this amazing research achievement, even if that transparency comes along with the fact that we could be doing better for other important treatments. Not only to enable momentum toward COVID-19 prevention, but to capitalize on what we know we can do across the industry.