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Many Patients Don’t Take Part in Cancer Studies

Study Shows Doctors Often Fail to Tell Patients About Ongoing Clinical Trials

Concern Over Random Treatment

Sometimes people are concerned that studies often randomly assign treatments to different groups of patients. Trials may compare standard care with the experimental treatment, but it is luck of the draw as to who gets which therapy.

“This is necessary, and the right way to do the study, but on the other hand, a fair number will say they are uncomfortable with it and not willing to leave the decision to chance,” he says.

Informed consent on the part of the patient is critical, he says.

When discussing clinical trial participation, Saltz says, “If you go on the study, it is because we hope it will be the right thing for you, and we will evaluate as we go always have the right to opt out. You can never say a trial is better for a patient because if we knew it was better, it wouldn’t be a trial.”

While clinical trials have advanced cancer care, “first and foremost, you owe it to yourself and people around you to make the best decision for you,” he says.

Making an Informed Decision

Lori M. Minasian, ND, the chief of the National Cancer Institute’s Community Oncology and Prevention Trials Research Group, co-authored an editorial that accompanies the new study.

“Most people learn about clinical trials from their physicians, and many do Internet searches when they are looking for newer or better approaches than the standard approach and some hear about trials that use public advertisement to recruit specific patient populations,” she says in an email.

If your doctor doesn’t mention clinical trials, “the simplest approach for patients is to ask about the trials in the context of the treatment discussion or at the end of that discussion,” she says.

The patient needs to know all their options to make an informed decision. “Many patients are willing to participate because they wish to try something better or they because they want to help the next generation, but clearly there are some who are afraid of participating or who are highly skeptical about participation,”Minasian says.

Educating Doctors

Aman Buzdar, MD, vice president of clinical research at the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, says the new article is “right on target.”

“It’s important to educate physicians that we need more patients in clinical research and to inform the patient that participation may help them, but may advance the knowledge so that the next patient down the line gets the benefit of these types of therapies,” Buzdar says.

Doctors have to take time to explain the upsides, downsides, and unknowns of both standard and experimental treatments to patients, he says.

“We must be very candid with the patient that there is preclinical data that the new treatment may be more effective or safer than the standard treatment, but we don’t know,” he says. “This may take one, two, or three visits and is time consuming.”

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