Rare diseases pose specific challenges in the field of medical research to provide physicians with evidence-based guidelines derived from studies with sufficient quality. An example of these rare diseases is multiple endocrine neoplasia type 1 (MEN1), which is an autosomal dominant endocrine tumor syndrome with an estimated occurrence rate of 2–3 per 100,000. For this complex disease, characterized by multiple endocrine tumors, it proves difficult to perform both adequate and feasible studies. The opinion of patients themselves is of utmost importance to identify the gaps in the evidence-based medicine regarding clinical care. In the search for scientific answers to clinical research questions, the aim for best available evidence is obvious. Observational studies within patient cohorts, although prone to bias, seem the most feasible study design regarding the disease prevalence. Knowledge and adaptation to all types of bias is demanded in the strive for answers. Guided by our research on MEN1 patients, we elaborate on strategies to identify sufficient patients, to maximize and maintain patient enrolment and to standardize the data collection process. Preferably, data collection is performed prospectively, however, under certain conditions, data storage in a longitudinal retrospective database with a disease-specific framework is suitable. Considering the global challenges on observational research on rare diseases, we propose a stepwise approach from clinical research questions to scientific answers.
‘Quality in, quality out’, a stepwise approach to evidence-based medicine for rare diseases promoted by multiple endocrine neoplasia type 1
Dirk-Jan van Beek, Rachel S van Leeuwaarde, Carolina R C Pieterman, Menno R Vriens, Gerlof D Valk, and the DutchMEN Study Group
Electronic reporting of rare endocrine conditions within a clinical network: results from the EuRRECa project
S R Ali, J Bryce, A L Priego-Zurita, M Cherenko, C Smythe, T M de Rooij, M Cools, T Danne, H Katugampola, O M Dekkers, O Hiort, A Linglart, I Netchine, A Nordenstrom, P Attila, L Persani, N Reisch, A Smyth, Z Sumnik, D Taruscio, W E Visser, A M Pereira, N M Appelman-Dijkstra, and S F Ahmed
The European Registries for Rare Endocrine Conditions (EuRRECa, eurreb.eu) includes an e-reporting registry (e-REC) used to perform surveillance of conditions within the European Reference Network (ERN) for rare endocrine conditions (Endo-ERN). The aim of this study was to report the experience of e-REC over the 3.5 years since its launch in 2018.
Electronic reporting capturing new encounters of Endo-ERN conditions was performed monthly through a bespoke platform by clinicians registered to participate in e-REC from July 2018 to December 2021.
The number of centres reporting on e-REC increased to a total of 61 centres from 22 countries. A median of 29 (range 11, 45) paediatric and 32 (14, 51) adult centres had reported cases monthly. A total of 9715 and 4243 new cases were reported in adults (age ≥18 years) and children, respectively. In children, sex development conditions comprised 40% of all reported conditions and transgender cases were most frequently reported, comprising 58% of sex development conditions. The median number of sex development cases reported per centre per month was 0.6 (0, 38). Amongst adults, pituitary conditions comprised 44% of reported conditions and pituitary adenomas (69% of cases) were most commonly reported. The median number of pituitary cases reported per centre per month was 4 (0.4, 33).
e-REC has gained increasing acceptability over the last 3.5 years for capturing brief information on new encounters of rare conditions and shows wide variations in the rate of presentation of these conditions to centres within a reference network.
Endocrinology includes a very wide range of rare conditions and their occurrence is often difficult to measure. By using an electronic platform that allowed monthly reporting of new clinical encounters of several rare endocrine conditions within a defined network that consisted of several reference centres in Europe, the EuRRECa project shows that a programme of e-surveillance is feasible and acceptable. The data that have been collected by the e-reporting of rare endocrine conditions (e-REC) can allow the continuous monitoring of rare conditions and may be used for clinical benchmarking, designing new studies or recruiting to clinical trials.