Over its first five years, WAHTN distributed more than $3.85 million from the Medical Research Future Fund (MRFF) to Early Career Fellowships and Health Service Translation Projects in Western Australia. In this series, we catch up with funding recipients to find out what they achieved and where it’s led them.
As one of the 12 HSTRP recipients in 2019, Dr Wei-Sen Lam of the WA Country Health Service (WACHS) aimed to provide a solution to tackle the lack of clinical trials in rural areas through his project, “Teletrials in WA: A feasibility study to develop and pilot a TeleTrial framework to bring clinical trials closer to home for country patients”.
Dr Lam is the director for TeleTrials at WACHS and Head of Service of the medical oncology department at Fiona Stanley Hospital (FSH). He was the former Director of Medical Oncology at WACHS prior to his role in TeleTrials. He has been a principal investigator for several lung cancer trials and is an executive committee member of the Clinical Oncology Society of Australia (COSA) Rural and Regional Council. Dr Lam shared “As a medical oncologist, I have seen patients live longer with drugs available through clinical trials. Unfortunately for country patients, it is harder for such patients to have access to clinical trials due to travel commitments and time away from home. That’s why we wanted to address this issue through our research”.
COSA developed an Australasian Tele-Trial Model (ATM) which outlines a number of key considerations for using telehealth to increase access to clinical trials for people with cancer in rural and remote locations. This model provides an opportunity to overcome disparities in cancer survival and mortality rates between country patients and their metropolitan counterparts; it is estimated that 67 lives could be saved each year if country WA was to reduce cancer death rates to the metropolitan average.
With the support of WAHTN grant, Dr Lam’s project developed a framework and identified barriers for the implementation of TeleTrials in WA. The project engaged key stakeholders including WA Department of Health, South Metro Health Service, and Great Southern Health Service.
This project was the first step towards developing a pilot TeleTrial in Albany. The WAHTN grant allowed Dr Lam and his TeleTrial team to collaborate with states and territories to improve regional and rural access to clinical trials. The Australian TeleTrial Program, led by Department of Health, Queensland, helped secure $75.2 million in funding from a Commonwealth MRFF Grant in 2020 to run clinical trials using the TeleTrial model. A proportion of this funding will help Western Australia develop a Regional Clinical Trial Coordinating Centre (RCCC) and regional satellite sites to allow greater access to clinical trials.
“Without the WAHTN funding, we would not be able to assess the barriers to develop TeleTrials in Western Australia. We would also not be able to be involved with the Australian TeleTrials Program. I am excited with the next phase of this project and through TeleTrials, regional patients will have greater access to novel treatments and approaches to care” Dr Wei-Sen Lam said.
In the second half of 2022, Dr. Lam and his team will be commencing TeleTrials which allow regional and remote patients access to novel therapies and investigations.
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WAHTN Media and Communications – Hannah Vu (08 6151 0919)