A great deal is riding on good clinical trials.
For researchers, it is the only means by which new therapy and procedures can be evaluated for potential benefits and harms in humans. For patients, it can be an opportunity to play an active role in your health care; to potentially receive cutting edge treatments before they are widely available, and to get the best health care available.
In a nutshell, clinical trials may offer new hope.
It’s clear clinical trials have brought enormous advances in the areas of prevention, treatment and diagnosis for the whole of society, but experts say a number of barriers still exist.
The National Cancer Institute, part of the Institutes of Health estimate less than 5 percent of adults diagnosed with cancer each year will get treated through enrollment in a clinical trial.
“With broader enrollment, the effort to find new and better ways to treat and prevent cancer might be swifter,” says Ezekiel J. Emanuel, M.D., Ph.D., chair of the Department of Clinical Bioethics at the National Institutes of Health.
So why are so few people participating?
One reason may simply be fear. Another culprit is likely ignorance.
A survey by Harris Interactive, Inc., in 2000, suggests eight out of 10 cancer patients were unaware that clinical trials could be an option for them. Of those, 75 percent said they would have been willing to enroll had they known it was possible.
A 2007 study published by Journal of the National Comprehensive Cancer Network, found psychosocial barriers exist for patients that may impact participation in clinical trials.
The study asked 170 patients, and 137 oncologists to consider seven potential barriers to clinical trials. Both groups highly ranked random assignment and fear of receiving a placebo, but patients identified fear of side effects as the greatest barrier to clinical trial participation, whereas oncologists ranked this psychosocial barrier as least important to their patients.