Through the PARC Programme aiming to bolster paediatric oncology clinical research infrastructure in low income countries (LICs) and middle income countries (MICs), SIOP is enhancing the capacity for research-informed treatment to improve the care and cure of children with cancer. With funds from Amazon and Foundation S, the PARC Committee, headed by Dr. Guillermo Chantada (SIOP President), has identified several cooperative groups to receive grant support for capacity development work. In the Middle East, the support goes to the Pediatric Oncology East and Mediterranean (POEM) Group, which is hosted by the American University of Beirut.

The POEM Group has recently started clinical research projects in the region, after building the necessary networks over the past years in the region, where prior activities had mostly focused on educational activities, workshops, and focused capacity building projects. Over the past two years, a research committee was formed, and three clinical research projects have been approved. One is a retrospective multicenter study, which has been initiated over the past year, and data collection is already in progress. The other two clinical research proposals are in preparation, and both are prospective multicenter studies: one is a prospective randomized non-inferiority therapeutic interventional clinical trial, comparing two regimens in localized osteosarcoma, and the other is a prospective observational study using in-person surveys to patient caregivers at two time-points, to understand local control decision making practices in osteosarcoma.

A total of 35 regional centers from 21 countries have shown interest in participating in both studies; however, the majority of centers have not previously conducted local prospective clinical research. Therefore, in order to successfully launch prospective clinical studies, understanding the available resources and developing the needed research infrastructure within the participating institutions will be paramount.

With a grant from the PARC Programme, the POEM Group will carry out the following activities:

  1. Mapping the readiness of the regional institutions for the different types of prospective clinical studies (observational vs. interventional, therapeutic vs. implementation, complexity of care, etc..)
  2. Training of a core team of clinical research coordinators, on prospective data collection and management of clinical trials, along with support for a proportion of their time for the two years over which the studies will be planned and initiated.

The goal is to develop the research support expertise necessary to successfully conduct clinical research projects at participating institutions in the region, through mapping of each institution’s readiness to conduct the needed research activities, and targeted training of clinical research coordinators at each site.