Introduction: The Australasian Leukaemia and Lymphoma Group (ALLG) are Australia and New Zealand’s blood cancer clinical trial research organisation, recruiting patients from 92 accredited member hospitals. The impact of COVID-19 on the AUS/NZ healthcare systems peaked in March 2020. The ALLG were cognisant that COVID-19 may over burden the recruiting hospitals resulting in reduced patient accrual. To pre-empt this, the ALLG implemented measures to increase recruitment monitoring and maintain recruitment targets. We hypothesised with the execution of these increased measures, recruitment numbers observed from March to April (M-A) and May to June (M-J) would be similar to those pre-COVID 19 in January and February (J-F).
Methods: Recruitment rates from 10 ALLG clinical trials were compared across the following time periods: J-F (Pre COVID-19 pandemic); M-A (Peak COVID19 effect on the health care system); M-J. ALLG Operations implemented the following measures: Liaising with hospital staff to ensure all ALLG clinical trials remained open to recruitment (applying for exemptions), increased communication plans with trial Chief Investigators, Principal Investigators and site support staff, and escalated frequency of recruitment in trial monitoring plans.
Results: In the M-A period, recruitment rates were maintained in 6 trials and 2 trials rates were exceeded compared to the J-F timeframe. Recruitment in 2 of 10 trials was lower in the M-A period when compared to the J-F period. In the M-J period, 6 trials had greater recruitment rates compared to the M-A length of time. Furthermore, recruitment in the M-J period exceeded that in the J-F period with total recruitment 27pts compared to 20 respectively.
Conclusion: ALLG executed measures which included specialised trial plans and applying for recruitment exemptions at an institutional level. This led to preserved recruitment rates of the ALLG trial portfolio during the COVID19 pandemic when all expectations were that recruitment rates would decrease.