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Patients Meet Clinical Trials - Amid Shortage of Volunteers, Some Programs Aim to Boost Education and Recruitment

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With growing concern about a shortfall of patients to participate in clinical trials -- especially adult cancer patients, minorities and adolescents -- a number of new programs are stepping up efforts to match patients to trials and educate patients and their physicians about the benefits of medical research. Large medical centers are developing their own Web sites to help inform and recruit trial patients locally. And nonprofit health organizations are reaching out to community groups to educate residents about clinical trials and help them navigate issues such as getting insurance companies to pay the costs of participation.

According to the nonprofit Coalition of Cancer Cooperative Groups, only 3% of U.S. adults with cancer participate in clinical trials -- far too few to determine many experimental procedures' true effectiveness. Nearly 200,000 newly diagnosed patients may be eligible each year to participate in a cancer treatment trial but only 50,000 patients do so, the group says.

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