How does genetics impact enrolment planning for clinical trials?

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In recent years, it's been discovered that genetics can play a big role in developing a condition and even affect how a patient might respond to treatment. Because our genes can have such an impact on our health, genetic screening has become an important part of many clinical trials. With precision medicine research coming to the fore, how can researchers and their teams plan ahead to incorporate genetics into their enrolment planning? 

The role of genetics in clinical trials

Genetic insights are transforming the landscape of clinical trials, shaping personalised treatments, informing drug response strategies, and enhancing risk assessment within diverse participant populations.

Personalised medicine

Clinical trials that explore personalised treatment approaches rely on participants' genetic information to determine the most suitable interventions. Enrolling participants with diverse genetic backgrounds ensures that the trial's findings are applicable to a broader patient population while recruiting participants who have specific genotypes allows researchers to test more targeted treatments.

Drug metabolism and response

Genetic variations can influence how the body metabolises drugs and responds to treatments. Enrolling participants with different genetic profiles helps researchers understand how a medication might work differently in various populations. This knowledge informs dosing strategies and potential adjustments based on genetic factors.

Risk assessment and stratification

Genetics can identify individuals at higher risk of developing certain diseases. In the context of preventive or early intervention clinical trials, enrolling participants with specific genetic predispositions can improve the trial's ability to detect meaningful outcomes and validate the intervention's effectiveness within a target population.

Challenges and considerations for planning genetics-based enrolment

An inherent aspect of enrolling participants for genetics-based clinical trials is its complexity, which surpasses that of conventional patient recruitment. Researchers must remain be aware of distinct challenges and proactively strategise to navigate the following considerations:

Ensuring diversity and inclusivity in genetic-based enrolment

In clinical trials, it's important to have a mix of participants from different backgrounds to make sure the results are relevant to the general population. When a diverse range of patients are included in research, particularly when it comes to genetic-based clinical trials, we can learn far more about how different groups might be more or less likely to get certain diseases, how they might react to treatments and the genes involved. This can be a challenge, particularly in rare diseases that impact more homogeneous groups. 

To address diversity and inclusivity in genetic-based enrolment, researchers can employ targeted outreach strategies, implement culturally sensitive communication, and collaborate with a variety of healthcare providers to ensure representation from diverse backgrounds, allowing for more comprehensive insights into disease susceptibility, treatment response, and genetic interactions.

Accessibility of genetic testing and genetic counselling

Access to genetic testing isn't the same for everyone, and this inequality could lead to unfair biases. For some populations, genetic testing is not readily available, which means they might not be included as often in research. This lack of representation could make the findings less accurate or relevant for these communities. Throughout the process, participants should also have access to genetic counselling services to address potential psychological effects. Again, this access is uneven.

To address these challenges, researchers can take proactive steps such as implementing targeted outreach initiatives to ensure participation from underrepresented communities, collaborating with local healthcare institutions to enhance access to genetic testing, and providing resources like genetic counselling services to participants, particularly in areas where access is limited.

Ethical and privacy concerns

When it comes to gathering and using genetic information, important ethical and privacy questions arise. It's a delicate balance between making the most out of the data for scientific progress and safeguarding the confidentiality of patients. 

Researchers can ensure ethical practices and prioritise privacy by obtaining clear, informed consent from participants, particularly regarding genetic testing. In addition, researchers should implement robust data protection measures, including encryption and anonymization, while adhering to relevant privacy regulations and maintaining transparent communication with participants throughout the process.

Impact of rare genetic mutations on patient eligibility

Considering that for a condition to be classed as rare, it needs to occur in less than 1 in 2,000 people, clinical trials studying rare genetic conditions often encounter difficulties meeting enrolment requirements. 

To tackle the challenge of enrolling participants for clinical trials studying rare genetic conditions, researchers can collaborate with patient advocacy groups and establish international networks to pool potential participants from various regions. Additionally, employing innovative trial designs, such as adaptive or platform trials, can facilitate the inclusion of smaller patient populations, enabling more efficient assessment of treatments and increasing the likelihood of meeting enrolment requirements.


The intricacies of genetics-based enrolment in clinical trials underscore the importance of forward thinking on the part of researchers. While challenges related to diversity, accessibility, ethics, and privacy exist, with strategic preparation they can be countered and prevented. By weaving together these strands of careful planning, researchers can navigate the complexities, yielding research impactful outcomes that drive precision medicine forward.

For an example of how strategic planning for genetics-based enrolment can lead to clinical trial success, download our case study on how Sano identified Parkinson's Disease patients with LRRK2:G2019S mutation at a rate 2x the industry benchmark.


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