Cancer research is getting more expensive in Korea and growing calls for government support get louder—is the Korean government listening? In a recent public hearing titled, “Investigator-Initiated Trials in Korea in the Era of the Pandemic” sponsored by the Korean Cancer Study Group (KSCG) and the Korea National Enterprise for Clinical Trials (KONECT), those seeking to grow the number of investigator-initiated cancer trials, including about 150 business officials, scholars and researchers shared their thoughts, concerns and suggestions via this online event. There is a real fear that pandemic forces will continuously hurt oncology-focused research and industry won’t step in and fill the void; only the government has the wherewithal for such an effort in South Korea.
Rare Cancer Patients will Suffer in Korea
Korea Biomedical Review shared the recent summary of this important event including a presentation from Professor Keam Bhum-suk with the Hepato-Oncology Department of the Seoul National University Hospital. Professor Bhum-suk cautioned that without investigator-initiated trials in select fields, such as rare and intractable cancer, little progress will occur because pharma company attention is just not there.
Electronic Clinical Systems Needed
The director of the Clinical Trials Policy Division at the Ministry of Food and Drug Safety, Kim Jeong-mi chimed that the nation needs more “diverse systems to enhance IIT’s completeness of data and secure reliability” wrote Kim yun-mi. Mr. Jeong-mi declared, “We need a state funding to build a system to collect and analyze electronic data or another where all researchers can share oncology data as open sources.”
IIT’s Don’t Get Sponsor Funding
Professor Kim Yeul-hong, Oncology-Hematology Department of Korea University Anam Hospital educated that although sponsor-driven studies of course are usually sufficiently financed this is not the case for Investigator-Initiated Trials (IITs): they don’t contribute to the ultimate profit making motive for the pharmaceutical company. But what does an IIT apply to a topic in the public health interest? What could the mechanism be to trigger state funding? Where would it come from?
IIT Infrastructure in Korea
What is needed, suggested Yeul-hong and others, is a turnkey IIT infrastructure in Korea, including a diagnostic platform, pooled insurance benefits for standard care of patient participants, IT/IS costs for data management and trial operational systems, for example.
Status of IITs in Korea
The Korean Cancer Study Group (KCSG) and Korea National Enterprise for Clinical Trials (KONECT) help a session. Park Yeon-hee, professor of Hematology-Oncology Department at Samsung Medical Center reported the number of trials at the top three hospitals in Korea was similar to last year despite the pandemic. She continued that
“The proportion of IIT increased to 13 percent this year from 11 percent last year, and there was no significant difference in new patient registration.”
Ms. Yeon-hee reminded that Korea has invested substantially over the past decade to develop a robust clinical trials infrastructure including national health insurance system, advanced diagnostic techniques and well-training medical professionals.