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Elderly cancer patients are significantly under-represented in cancer clinical trials

Alexandria, VA -- A new study finds that only 36% of cancer patients ages 65 and older participate in clinical trials, despite making up 60% of the U.S. cancer population. The study will be published November 15 in the Journal of Clinical Oncology (JCO). A separate article in the same issue of the JCO summarizes an innovative approach to increasing clinical trial participation among Native Americans in South Dakota (see below).

"If elderly patients do not participate in clinical trials, the treatments resulting from those trials may not be appropriate for them," said Lilia Talarico, MD, of the Division of Oncology Drug Products and Center for Drug Evaluation and Research at the Food and Drug Administration and lead author of the study. "This is a significant concern, given that elderly patients represent the majority of cancer patients in the U.S." Dr. Talarico noted that the FDA recommends that treatments be studied in all age groups for which they will have significant utility, including the elderly, so that the true risks and benefits can be assessed.

Researchers performed a retrospective analysis of 28,766 people participating in 55 clinical trials of new cancer drugs or new indications of already approved cancer drugs from 1995 to 2002. Data on trials for the treatment of leukemia, lymphoma, and cancers of the breast, lung, colon, ovary, pancreas and central nervous system were analyzed according to the following age groups: 65 and older, 70 and older, and 75 and older. The rates of enrollment for elderly patients for each cancer were compared to the corresponding rates in the U.S. cancer population.

Overall, researchers found that patients 65 and older comprised 60% of the U.S. cancer population, but only 36% of the clinical cancer study population. Patients aged 70 and older comprised 46% of the U.S. cancer population, but only 20% of the study population, while patients 75 and older represented 31% of the U.S. cancer population
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Contact: Danielle Potuto
potutod@asco.org
703-519-1422
American Society of Clinical Oncology
12-Nov-2004


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