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Currently, there are more than 600 clinical trials studying how to slow down the spread of SARS-Cov-2 around the world. The COVID-19 pandemic has multiplied the number of trials and, according to the World Health Organization, Spain is the fourth country in the world in terms of COVID-19 studies. That should not come as a surprise since “Spain has become a world reference in clinical trials and is an example to be followed. A third of clinical trials in Europe involve centers in Spain”, explains Mirian Delgado, head of the Clinical Trials Unit at MD Anderson Cancer Center Madrid.

On the occasion of International Clinical Trial Day, to be held next May 20, Ms. Delgado points out that “in recent years, Spain has positioned itself as one of the best countries in Europe for the setting up of clinical trials”, although she recognizes that the majority of people in Spain are unaware of that.

“The reality is that the general public are unaware of the work behind a clinical trial, the people involved and, above all, the cost and time involved in obtaining authorization to commercialize drugs, whatever their application”, says Ms. Delgado, who also points out that eight out of ten clinical trials are promoted by the pharmaceutical industry in Spain.

Clinical trials in their initial phases are vital to scientific advancement

 More than a third (36%) of clinical trials launched in Spain are in the initial phases of research, that is, they involve the first trials in humans of a drug after their effectiveness in animals is confirmed. “These phases are the most complex, but they are also the most important – they are necessary to allow potentially effective molecules to be trialed”, explains Ms. Delgado, who points out that these phases are even more important in therapeutic area like oncology.

 “Centers like us that focus on cancer research work towards finding alternative treatments for patients who have already been treated extensively and who, in some cases, have no further treatment options”. The opportunity to be able to trial an experimental treatment on these patients means we can offer them another chance, so it is vital we support these studies.

MD Anderson Madrid currently has eight clinical trials open to recruitment, that is, incorporating patients, in phase I and, if the present circumstances allow it, four further trials will open before summer. “We foresee that, by the end of the year, we could be participating in 15-20 phase I clinical trials”, states Ms. Delgado, stressing the positive perspectives of the work.

"An indicator of quality in cancer centers is having basic and clinical research units that are at the vanguard of future treatments and can anticipate possible protocol changes in clinical trials," says the specialist. In her opinion, it is "essential for a cancer center to have a phase I unit of its own, made up of highly qualified personnel, in order to offer patients the newest treatments".