Trials and Tribulations

Cancer patients miss out on clinical trials because of lack of physician referrals, says study

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Only a small number of adult cancer patients participate in clinical trials because of a low level of physician referrals, according to a new study.

Only about two percent of recently diagnosed cancer patients will take part in the more than 8,000 cancer clinical trials that are now seeking patients, according to the National Cancer Institute (NCI). Prior evidence suggests these low numbers are due in part to physicians lack of patient referrals.

Carrie N. Klabunde, Ph.D., of the National Cancer Institute, and colleagues analyzed data from the Cancer Care Outcomes Research and Surveillance Consortium (CanCORS), which included 1533 oncologists, radiation oncologists and surgeons caring for colorectal and lung cancer patients. Physicians completed the survey in 2005. Klabunde and associates found 869 of the physicians (57 percent) who responded had referred or enrolled at least one patient in clinical trials in the previous 12 months, including 88 percent of oncologists, 66 percent of radiation oncologists and 35 percent of surgeons.

Oncologists were more likely than surgeons to refer patients to clinical trials and were more likely to be part of larger practices, see a larger number of lung or colorectal cancer patients and attend weekly board meetings regarding tumors.

Lori M. Minasian, M.D., and Ann M. O'Mara, M.D., of the Community Oncology and Prevention Trials Research Group at the National Cancer Institute, said more research is needed to better understand physicans' attitudes toward clinical trials, and to report that the American public continues to value medical research. The authors cite a Mayo Clinic study that found 76 percent of patients said the expect their physician to inform them about clinical trials.

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Review Date: 
February 14, 2011
Last Updated:
February 15, 2011