Understanding cancer patients' needs, concerns, is key to improving clinical trial participation

(ORLANDO, Fla.) -- Advances in cancer treatment depend on carefully controlled trials of new therapies, yet only two to four percent of cancer patients nationwide take part in these pivotal studies. Understanding the decision to participate in a clinical trial -- from the patients point of view -- is a first step toward devising strategies to increase participation, according to researchers at UC Davis School of Medicine and Medical Center.

We really need to understand the patients perspective better, said Debora Paterniti, assistant professor of general medicine and author of a new study designed to fill that gap. The study was presented Sunday at the annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology in Orlando, Fla.

In the study, Paterniti closely observed cancer patients as they contemplated whether to participate in phase I and phase III clinical trials at UC Davis Cancer Center. Carried out over a three-month period, the observations focused not only on physician-patient and researcher-patient interactions, but also on physician-physician and patient-family interactions.

The observations turned up five broad categories of potential barriers to participation: lack of resources on the part of patients; health insurance restrictions; confusion about the difference between research and medical care; confusion about study procedures; and misunderstandings of the illness and its severity.

The observations also turned up three potential barriers to truly voluntary clinical trial participation by patients: desire on the part of a patient to please a family member or physician; a feeling by the patient that no other options exist; and perceptions by patients that they are required to be in a clinical trial.

In phase two of the study, Paterniti and her colleagues are now conducting in-depth interviews with patients. After all the data have been gathered, the researchers hope to use their findings to propose strateg

Contact: Claudia Morain
University of California, Davis - Health System

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