What is a Clinical Trials Network?

Clinical Trials Networks (CTNs) are collaborative groups of practising clinician-researchers. While some trials are conducted in collaboration with industry, the majority focus on investigator-initiated trials providing unbiased, high-quality scientific evidence of the effectiveness or cost-effectiveness of interventions. Australia’s CTNs have initiated more than 1000 clinical studies involving more than 1 million participants and representing at least $1 billion in research funding.

Most of Australia’s CTNs are national or bi-national groups, and are as inclusive as possible of any clinician researcher (medical, nursing, and allied health practitioners and career clinical researchers). However, unlike academic health science centres or other geographically-focused academic/health research partnerships, CTNs extend across state borders and into regional and rural Australia. This means:

  • results are more likely to be broadly representative of real-world practice
  • access for eligible patients is maximised
  • training and mentoring opportunities for clinical trial sites and the workforce outside major metropolitan teaching hospitals.

One of the primary functions of CTNs is collective peer review and endorsement of trial proposals. This ensures that trials are investigating an important clinical question, the trial is scientifically rigorous, and there is sufficient engagement, capacity and feasibility to conduct the trial. Networks predominantly conduct phase 2, 3 and 4 trials. They tend to have the capacity to recruit larger numbers of patients or complete trials in smaller sub-groups of patients through broad national and international collaboration. They also develop group ‘brand’ or ‘track record’ for excellence that supports greater funding success.

The key benefit of CTNs is facilitation of more rapid translation of trial results into practice, because they have the engagement or buy-in of a large and broadly distributed group of practising clinicians.

To find out more about Australia’s CTNs, read the Report on the Activities and Achievements of Clinical Trials Networks in Australia 2004–2014.