Discussions About Clinical Trials Among Patients with Newly Diagnosed Lung and Colorectal Cancer

Published in: JNCI Journal of the National Cancer Institute, v. 106, no. 10, Oct. 2014, p. 1-9

Posted on RAND.org on September 26, 2014

by Kenneth L. Kehl, Neeraj K. Arora, Deborah Schrag, John Z. Ayanian, Steven Clauser, Carrie N. Klabunde, Katherine L. Kahn, Robert H. Fletcher, Nancy L. Keating

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BACKGROUND: Clinical trials are essential to establish the effectiveness of new cancer therapies, but less than 5% of adults with cancer enroll in trials. In addition to ineligibility or lack of available trials, barriers to enrollment may include limited patient awareness about the option of participation. METHODS: We surveyed a multiregional cohort of patients with lung or colorectal cancer (or their surrogates) three to six months after diagnosis. We assessed whether respondents reported learning that clinical trial participation might be an option, and, if so, with whom they discussed trials. We used logistic regression to assess the association of patient characteristics with discussing trial participation and enrolling in trials. All statistical tests were two-sided. RESULTS: Of 7887 respondents, 1114 (14.1%) reported discussing the possibility of clinical trial participation; most learned about trials from their physicians, and 287 patients (3.6% of all patients, 25.8% of trial discussants) enrolled. Among 2173 patients who received chemotherapy for advanced (stage III/IV lung or stage IV colorectal) cancer, 25.7% discussed trials, and 7.6% (29.5% of trial discussants) enrolled. Discussions were less frequent among older patients, African American or Asian vs white patients, and those with lower incomes and more comorbidity. Enrollment was higher among patients reporting shared vs physician-driven decisions (all P < .05). CONCLUSIONS: In this population-based cohort, only 14% of patients discussed participation in clinical trials. Discussions were more frequent among advanced cancer patients but were still reported by a minority of patients. Strategies to expand access to trials and facilitate patient-provider communication about participation may accelerate development of better cancer therapeutics.

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