Most Americans are not likely to join a clinical trial, according to a new survey conducted by the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center (MSK). Only four percent of all cancer patients in the country enroll in clinical trials every year. Physicians said this trend should change to avoid a “crisis” in cancer research.
Researchers surveyed 1,500 U.S. patients and 600 physicians about their inclinations regarding clinical trials. 35 percent said were “likely” to join a clinical trial, while 40 percent admitted having a positive impression of the research method.
The MSK describe results as “sobering” since every cancer treatment in the market was previously tested in a clinical trial. Medication research inevitably depends on patients, who participate in long-term tests.
José Baselga, Chief Medical Officer at MSK, said that a crisis in cancer research would be coming if low participation trends continue. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) said that both healthy volunteers and patient volunteers play “an important role” in research.
“Clinical research is the rocket fuel for better cancer treatments, more accurate diagnoses, and, ultimately, cures. If this trend of low enrollment continues, we will face a crisis in cancer research and discovery,” said Baselga.
“Further education is the key to participation and progress”
Survey participants who received information about clinical trials showed more positive impression about them. After researchers gave them a reading statement, percentages of people showing good impressions increased from 40 to 60 percent.
Clinical trials aim to “prevent, detect and treat disease”, said the NIH. This procedure may include testing new drugs, combinations of drugs, surgical procedures, or devices. The clinical research follows a strict protocol to determine who can participate.
A major part of all clinical trials in the nation are regulated by the Institutional Review Board, which evaluates risks and benefits of each investigation. The committee is formed by physicians, statisticians and researchers.
“Individuals would not want to feel like guinea pigs”
Physicians argued that most patients may be worried about side effects and safety concerns when enrolling in a clinical trial. 63 percent of physicians said patients may be worried about getting a placebo instead of a real medicine.
Paul Sabbatini, Deputy Physician-in-Chief for Clinical Research at MSK, said that most clinical trials in the U.S. do not include placebo testing. “Individuals would not want to feel like guinea pigs”, said the MSK in a press release issued Monday.
“While concerns regarding clinical trials are understandable, it is critical that the cancer community address common myths and misunderstandings around issues like effectiveness, safety, use of placebo, and at which point in treatment a trial should be considered,” said Sabbatini.
American physicians see clinical trials as a “treatment of last resort”
Researchers at the MSK surveyed nearly 600 physicians from different parts of the country. They found out that 56 percent of physicians “consider clinical trials late in treatment”. On the other hand, 28 percent consider the research method as a “treatment of last resort”.
Dr. Sabbatini said that cancer patients who do not join clinical trials are missing a “significant” opportunity. He explained that research is fundamental to develop new therapies and finding better ways to “prevent, treat and cure cancer”.
Which is the impact of cancer in the U.S?
There will be an estimated 1,685,210 new cancer cases in the country by 2016, said the National Cancer Institute. Nearly 600,000 people will die as a consequence of the disease.
Breast cancer, lung and bronchus cancer, prostate cancer, colon cancer and melanoma of the skin will be among the most common cancers in 2016. National expenditures for cancer would be of $155 billion in 2020, said the NCI.