Telehealth Brings Drug Trials to The Regions

An Australian-first partnership between North Queensland hospitals is bringing potentially life-saving cancer drug trials to rural patients.

The tele-trial model is a breakthrough for regional and remote patients and will mean that for the first time all North Queenslanders will have access to the latest drug trials from national and international trial groups and companies.

The Australasian Teletrial Model developed by the Clinical Oncology Society of Australia has been operationalised by a collaboration between the Townsville Cancer Centre, Queensland Cancer Clinical Network and the Health, Innovation, Investment and Research Office of the Department of Health.

Airlie Beach grandmother Robyn Creighton is the first person in Queensland to participate in a cancer drug trial via telehealth.

Ms Creighton was diagnosed with breast cancer in September 2017 and was approached by doctors to participate in a drug trial.

The monarchE trial is using a new drug which hopes to restrict the growth of breast cancer cells by using oestrogen hormone blocking agents.

To participate Ms Creighton would have had to make monthly visits to The Townsville Hospital; a seven-hour round trip once a month.

But an agreement signed between Townsville, Cairns, Mackay and North West Hospital and Health Services will see telehealth drug trials delivered as the ‘Northern Teletrial Cluster’.

Townsville Hospital is the primary site for the initial trial however moving forward the lead agency role will be shared between Townsville, Cairns and Mackay.

Ms Creighton began as a participant in the trial dialling in to Townsville from Mackay Hospital.

“When I was told I could do it from Mackay I agreed to give it a go. I have five beautiful granddaughters and a sister with breast cancer and if this drug can make a difference then I am doing it for them.”

Townsville Hospital and Health Service Oncologist Professor Sabe Sabesan, the architect of the model, chairs the Australasian Teletrial Consortium and Queensland tele trial working group. The group is rolling out the tele trial model across Queensland and Australia.

“By linking areas of North Queensland, we can increase the availability of suitable patients and really incentivise attracting cutting-edge trials to our communities.”