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COTA, Inc, a real-world oncology data and analytics company, announced the results of a survey of practicing oncologists. Eighty-three percent of oncologists surveyed believe real-world data is critical to accelerating the development of potentially life-saving cancer drugs and treatments.

The survey of 200 practicing oncologists in the United States also found that oncologists believe it is important that all clinical trials include a real-world data component, and the overwhelming majority (78 percent) would urge that pharmaceutical companies and cancer research groups also use real-world data in all clinical trials. In addition, 71 percent of respondents said they believe real-world data, when used as an external control arm, can make a clinical trial more efficient and representative.

The results of this study reinforce the need and hope of providers and patients that innovations specifically designed for cancer care and treatment can be accelerated in the future. This growing expectation is the result of lessons learned from the recent accelerated development of COVID -19 vaccines, as well as the fact that cancer continues to be the second leading cause of death in the United States, accounting for 608,570 deaths in 2021 alone.

The study also highlighted some specific areas where oncologists’ perceptions differed from those of patients and from the reality of the field, including:

  • The Urgent Need for More Diversity in Cancer Clinical Trials – While it is well known that clinical trials often do not include representative samples of diverse populations, the COTA study found that 70 percent of oncologists believe that patient populations participating in cancer clinical trials are representative.
  • Growing Patient Expectations for Better and Faster Cancer Treatments – Unlike cancer patients or people with cancer patients in their immediate care who are frustrated with the slow pace of innovations in cancer treatment, 64 percent of oncologists said they are satisfied with the pace of typical cancer treatment clinical trials. However, a surprising 71 percent acknowledge that patient expectations for faster development of new cancer treatments have increased due to the perceived pace of COVID -19 vaccine development.
  • An Opportunity for Engagement and Education Between Health Care Providers and Cancer Patients – While this study found that the majority of oncologists described their patients as enthusiastic to participate in clinical trials (58 percent) and willing to share their health data (92 percent), a previous consumer study indicated that many oncologists would not discuss clinical trial participation and data sharing with researchers. According to this consumer study, while 86 percent of respondents believe oncologists should actively discuss the value of sharing data with researchers as part of patient interactions, fewer than half of respondents said their oncologist actually discussed just that.

“The pandemic highlighted the vital benefit real-world data can have when it comes to ensuring the efficacy and safety of swiftly developed vaccines aimed at decreasing the impact of COVID-19,” said C.K. Wang, MD, Chief Medical Officer at COTA, Inc. “It is not surprising that providers and patients now want to see the same turnaround time for cancer drugs and treatments. Real-world data is one solution to this challenge of speeding cancer-specific innovation.”

Nowadays, real world oncology data is usually collected from the electronic health records of cancer patients. This data is then anonymized for research purposes. Companies like COTA take a unique approach to ensure they provide the highest quality oncology real-world data by working specifically with leading academic and community cancer institutes. COTA also uses a proprietary, technology-based method to abstract human data. Their approach ensures a more diverse representation of patients compared to current clinical trial processes – while simplifying the use of this complex, fragmented real-world patient data for both providers and pharmaceutical companies.

“The quality and breadth of oncology real-world data has increased significantly over the last five years,” added Paul Barr, MD, Associate Professor of Medicine and Director of the Clinical Trials Office for the Wilmot Cancer Institute. “Now, more and more leading cancer institutes — including my own — and pharma companies are looking to external control arms, which are grounded in real-world data, to bring trusted cancer therapies to patients faster — while also improving the diversity of representation in those trials. More regulatory guidance is still needed to ensure broad-based adoption, but those efforts are already in-progress.”

So far, providers and pharmaceutical companies have turned to regulators for guidance from real-world data. The Food and Drug Administration has already taken action and is playing a proactive role in exploring current and future uses of real-world data, including recent draft guidance on the use of real-world data in drug development. However, further guidance is needed to expand the adoption and acceptance of real-world data.


The survey was conducted by PureSpectrum, an independent market research platform that gathers insights via online samples that are not randomly drawn from panels in the PureSpectrum marketplace. For more information about PureSpectrum’s methodology, visit