While the survival trend was evident across cancer types, the researchers said that this may not necessarily be true for the general population. In their analysis, they determined that the patients who enrolled in clinical trials at first course of therapy tended to be white males with private insurance, metastatic disease, who had no other chronic medical conditions and were treated at academic medical centers.
"If clinical trials are going to be used to determine standards of care for the general population, then the study participants need to be representative of the general population -- and this study shows that often this isn't the case," Gusani said.
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According to Zaorsky, increasing patient enrollment in clinical trials cannot happen without first improving the infrastructure of clinical trial design and management. Patients may not live close to locations where clinical trials are offered. Even if they are in close proximity to a center offering clinical trials, the trials may not be for their type or stage of cancer.
Gusani suggests that the biggest barrier to clinical trial enrollment is the stigma around them. Patients may feel they are 'guinea pigs' in experiments and that they are receiving substandard care. In reality, trials emphasize patient safety at every stage and are carefully regulated and monitored by institutional review boards.
"The increased level of quality control in clinical trials may be beneficial for patients," Zaorsky said. "Patients who go onto a clinical trial must be treated per protocol, meaning that there are many quality measures that must be met, and that there are many other health care providers looking over the patient's care."Back to HCB News