Study:Cancer Patients Unaware of Trials

Many patients with cancer are not aware that they have access to experimental treatments through clinical trials, results of a new Harris Interactive survey suggest.

"An alarming number of cancer patients say that they were never told or didn't know about the possibility of enrolling in a clinical trial for their treatment," Peter Risher, of Harris Interactive, told Reuters Health in an interview.

Interviews with nearly 6,000 patients with a variety of cancers revealed that approximately 85% were either unaware or unsure that they could participate in a clinical trial. Three out of four of these individuals said they "would have been willing to enroll had they known it was possible."

Among the 16% who knew about the trials but declined to participate, 30% believed that the therapy used in the trial would be less effective than "the standard treatment" and 31% feared that they might receive an inactive placebo rather than the treatment being studied. Placebos are never used in trials on drugs that may be used to treat cancer.

Another 20% feared the cost would not be covered by their insurance. Meantime, 22% feared being treated "like a guinea pig" despite the finding that 82% of respondents who reported participating in a clinical trial said they did not feel they had been treated like a guinea pig. In fact, 93% said that their overall experience was positive and 76% said they "would recommend participation to someone else with cancer."

Thanks to Reuters Health for this story.

Ann's NOTE: I am actually one of the people polled by Harris. I had to respond truthfully that at the time of my diagnosis I was not offered any trials. I got interested in the use of MRI for diagnosing lobular carcinoma of the breast but found out about AFTER I had surgery. I certainly would have loved to be part of that trial. Luckily my insurance covered the procedure I had done on my own. (I did not qualify for the trial since I had already done a lumpectomy).

Risks & Benefits of Clinical Trials Often Misunderstood

The Lancet, and the ACS article

Clinical Trials: Are they a Good Buy?

J Clinical Oncology, 12/01

Study Risks Not Disclosed on Web Sites

Reuters Health,5/02 Federal Health Inspectors

Cancer Patients' Needs/Concerns, Key to Improved Commun

Press Release, 5/02 UC Davis School of Medicine

Most Don't Ask Key Questions Before Enrolling

Center Watch Survey, 5/02

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