By providing a centralized team of support staff—including research nurses, clinical research associates, and clinical data specialists—the National Cancer Institute’s (NCI’s) Division of Cancer Treatment and Diagnosis said it hopes to remove the research staffing challenges many of its sites have experienced since the COVID-19 pandemic. The agency announced the launch of its pilot Virtual Clinical Trials Office program in February 2024.

“Staffing shortfalls have hampered clinical trials activities across the country, particularly in rural and underserved areas,” NCI wrote in a press release. It said the new office “will work remotely to assist NCI-designated comprehensive cancer centers and community practices with their clinical trials activities.”

The Virtual Clinical Trials Office pilot program has a mission to “improve accrual and retention rates to NCI-sponsored clinical trials-especially among minority and underserved communities-by building active partnerships with clinical sites across the U.S. to address staffing challenges and reduce the burdens of clinical research.” Some of the services it offers include:

  • Screening and enrolling patients
  • Providing clinical trial education to patients and participants
  • Assisting with data capture and query resolution

NCI described the pilot program as “agile,” able to adapt to the range of clinical trial and organizational needs across a variety of sites. “This agility will enable the team to compare clinical trial support interventions across sites, identify dynamic pathways for pilot success, and establish best practices for virtual support,” the agency said.

The Virtual Clinical Trials Office pilot program builds on the success of the NCI-supported Virtual Research Nurse program launched at LSU New Orleans in 2023, which has helped to overcome challenges and support more than 1,600 patients in cancer clinical trials across 50 sites in the South Gulf region.

Learn more about virtual nursing on the Oncology Nursing Podcast Episode 312: Virtual Nursing in Health Care. Listen on the podcast platform of your choice or using the player below.