Few Teen, Young Adult Cancer Patients Studied
More Participation in studies Could Boost Survival Rates, Researchers Say
March 28, 2005 -- If more teens and young adults with cancer took part in
clinical trials, it might improve that age group's chances of survival.
Recent years have seen significant improvement in cancer survival. But
researchers say that young adults have had less improvement than children or
older adults. To test this further they looked at people with cancers called
sarcomas, which are cancers of bone, muscle, or cartilage.
In their new study, researchers found that improvement in cancer survival
was less for patients aged 15-44 in the U.S. with sarcomas. They say this may
have been a result of their relative lack of participation in clinical
Following Five-Year Survival
Five-year survival was tracked in more than 38,000 young adults with
sarcomas. All were diagnosed between 1975 and 1998.
Sarcomas are one of the most common cancer types in that age group.
The greatest improvement in five-year survival was seen in people with
Kaposi scarcoma (KS) patients. Specifically, KS patients aged 30-44 had the
biggest survival gains.
The least survival improvement occurred in patients aged 15-44 with sarcomas
other than KS.
Another trend stood out. It centered on youth participation in clinical
trials sponsored by the National Cancer Institute (NCI) from 1997-2002.
The patients with the biggest survival improvement also had the highest
participation in NCI-sponsored clinical trials.
Meanwhile, sarcoma patients aged 20-44 had the lowest rate of participation
in NCI trials.
Sarcomas that affect soft tissue, such as muscle and cartilage, are more
common than KS or bone sarcoma. But researchers found that there were fewer
patients in clinical trials for the most common type of sarcoma.
And they found a direct correlation between survival and trial
participation, say the researchers, who included Archie Bleyer, MD, of the
University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center.
Few Young Participants
Young adults with soft-tissue sarcomas had a disproportionately low
participation rate in clinical trials compared with younger and older patients
of all cancers. The numbers were lowest among patients aged 25-45.
That didn't change much during the study.
Reversing the Trend
Improving participation is possible, but not easy. The researchers note that
clinical trial participation by KS patients has gotten better. So has overall
cancer trial participation by patients aged 45 and older.
"It will require broad support and cooperation to increase clinical
trial availability, access, and participation," says the study.
Other countries have the same problem, write Bleyer and colleagues. However,
minority under-representation doesn't seem to be a factor in the U.S.
The study is due for publication in the May 1 issue of Cancer.