Cancer Treatment Centers of America

Future of cancer research is cloudy due to low participation in adult clinical trials

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A recent Associated Press article revealed what many of us in cancer research have known for some time: Too few adult patients enroll in cancer clinical trials and the consequences for future advances are dire.

Given that many modern advances in cancer care have in some way or another been shaped by information stemming from clinical trials, this news represents a crisis in cancer research.

The article states that one in 10 adult clinical trials end prematurely because researchers cannot recruit enough people to participate in the studies for a number of reasons, including:

  • Some patients must travel great distances to participate, creating additional costs and inconvenience.
  • Some patients perceive there is a high cost of participating in research.
  • Patients fear receiving the placebo therapy rather than the experimental therapy.

Cancer researchers need to do a better job addressing patient concerns and emphasizing the benefits of participating in clinical trials. So, what are some of the positive reasons to participate in clinical trials?

Patients who have participated in clinical trials have told me they do so because they want to help those with cancer and participate in a new treatment. The notion that patients can make an altruistic contribution to future treatment is a compelling reason to participate in research and one we ought to encourage. We need to honor these volunteers as the research heroes they are and ensure their contributions are better communicated to other patients and loved ones.

To address concerns about the costs associated with cancer research, we need to talk to patients upfront about the potential benefit and health care value of participating in clinical research.

While it is true that patients who participate in certain types of clinical trials may receive a placebo treatment, the placebo is generally given along with what is considered standard of care treatment and/or support. 

We need to encourage a broader public dialogue about recruiting more patients to participate in adult clinical trials. Our ability to succeed in this endeavor will aid our efforts to find new treatments. What are your suggestions for improving access to clinical trials for adult cancer patients?

Learn about clinical trials underway at our hospitals.