Increasing diversity in clinical trial participation is necessary to improve health outcomes and requires addressing existing social, structural, and geographic barriers. The Clinical Sequencing Evidence-Generating Research Consortium (CSER) included six research projects to enroll historically underrepresented/underserved (UR/US) populations in clinical genomics research. Delays and project re-designs emerged shortly after work began. Understanding common experiences of these projects may inform future trial implementation.
Semi-structured interviews with six CSER principal investigators and seven project managers were performed. An interview guide included questions of research/clinical infrastructure, logistics across sites, language, communication, and allocation of grant-related resources. Interviews were recorded, transcribed verbatim; transcripts were analyzed using inductive coding, thematic analysis and consensus building.
All projects collaborating with new clinical sub-sites to recruit UR/US populations. Refining trial logistics continued long after enrollment for all projects. Themes of challenges included: sub-site customization for workflow and genetics support, conflicting input from participant advisory groups and approval bodies, developing research personnel, complex data management structures, and external changes (e.g. subcontractors ending contracts) that required redesign. Themes of beneficial lessons included: domains with prior experience were easier, develop project champions at each sub-site, structure communication within the research team, and simplify research design when possible.
The operational aspects of expanding clinical research into novel sub-sites are significant and require investment of time and resources. The themes arising from these interviews suggest priority areas for more quantitative analyses in the future including multi-institutional approval policies and processes, data management structures, and incremental research complexity.