Clinical Trial Participation Low in Lung, Colorectal Cancers

The gist: There is a low rate of enrollment in clinical trials by cancer patients. Clinical trials are research studies with volunteer patients. They allow patients to access promising new treatments, and are essential for driving the development of new treatments.

“Despite the importance of clinical trials for driving medical discovery and innovations, only 14% of patients with newly diagnosed lung or colorectal cancer surveyed in a recent trial reported having discussed participation in clinical trials with their physician, and even fewer went on to participate.

“ ‘Even among patients treated with chemotherapy for advanced cancer, for whom investigational approaches should arguably be integrated into all initial considerations about treatment options, given a low chance of cure with standard therapy, the discussion rate was only 25.7%, with a participation rate of 7.6%,’ wrote researchers led by Kenneth L. Kehl, MD, MPH, of Harvard Medical School.

“Kehl and colleagues also found that discussions occurred less frequently among older patients, and black and Asian patients compared with white patients.

“In the study, the researchers surveyed 7,887 patients with lung or colorectal cancer between 3 and 6 months after cancer diagnosis. Respondents were asked if they learned that clinical trial participation might be an option for them, and who discussed trials with them. The results were published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

“Overall, 1,114 participants, or 14.1%, reported having discussed the possibility of participating in a clinical trial, with the majority reporting that the discussion occurred with their physician. Participating in a clinical trial occurred in 3.6% of all participants and in 25.8% of participants who reported discussing clinical trials with their physician. In addition, higher rates of clinical trial discussion occurred among patients who reported being treated by a medical oncologist compared with those who were not.”


Analysis of SWOG Trials Indicates No Survival Difference After 1 Year in Cancer Patients Treated In vs Out of Clinical Trials

“In a study reported in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, Unger et al evaluated whether cancer patients from SWOG clinical trials were similar to nontrial patients in baseline characteristics and survival. They found that, overall, trial participation in standard treatment arms did not influence overall survival after 1 year, suggesting both that findings in clinical trials can be generalized to the wider population and that eligibility requirements might be relaxed to encourage greater clinical trial participation.

“Key Points:

“In good-prognosis patients, there was no significant difference in overall survival between patients treated in vs out of clinical trials.

“In poor-prognosis patients, there was a significant difference in overall survival during the first year after diagnosis (favoring trial participation), but not thereafter.”

Editor’s note: This study compared outcomes for patients treated in clinical trials with outcomes for patients not enrolled in trials. Learn more about clinical trials here.


On the Failure of Lung Cancer Drug Onartuzumab in a Phase III Clinical Trial


Most new cancer drugs fail clinical testing. Because they don’t make it to the pharmacy, we usually hear very little about them. But widespread media coverage made it hard to ignore the recent termination of a trial testing the drug onartuzumab. Details of the story raise concerns about the patient enrollment processes of some clinical trials. Continue reading…


Novartis Revolutionizes Clinical Trials for Targeted Cancer Drugs


Someone had to do it; now it looks like Novartis may be the first. The pharma company’s new series of clinical trials, SIGNATURE (also known as, ‘bring the protocol to the patient,’ or  ‘P2P’), is recruiting patients with different cancers to receive investigational targeted drugs selected to match the distinct genetic changes found in each patient’s tumor. Continue reading…


Not Enough Cancer Patients Enroll in Clinical Trials

Around 10% of mid- and late-stage clinical trials of cancer treatments end prematurely because not enough patients enroll, a recent analysis shows. This lack of participants slows the development of new cancer medications and wastes considerable amounts of money invested in these trials. The authors of the analysis hope to focus attention on possible reasons why too few patients enroll in clinical trials. Doctors may not always encourage their patients enough to participate, and some insurance plans do not cover the costs associated with clinical trials. Patients may also hesitate because they fear receiving only a placebo instead of treatment. However, in modern clinical trials, new cancer drugs are tested against the current standard therapy, so that all participants receive treatment.


Not Enough Cancer Patients Enroll in Clinical Trials

Around 10% of mid- and late-stage clinical trials of cancer treatments end prematurely because not enough patients enroll, a recent analysis shows. This lack of participants slows the development of new cancer medications and wastes considerable amounts of money invested in these trials. The authors of the analysis hope to focus attention on possible reasons why too few patients enroll in clinical trials. Doctors may not always encourage their patients enough to participate, and some insurance plans do not cover the costs associated with clinical trials. Patients may also hesitate because they fear receiving only a placebo instead of treatment. However, in modern clinical trials, new cancer drugs are tested against the current standard therapy, so that all participants receive treatment.


Not Enough Cancer Patients Enroll in Clinical Trials

Around 10% of mid- and late-stage clinical trials of cancer treatments end prematurely because not enough patients enroll, a recent analysis shows. This lack of participants slows the development of new cancer medications and wastes considerable amounts of money invested in these trials. The authors of the analysis hope to focus attention on possible reasons why too few patients enroll in clinical trials. Doctors may not always encourage their patients enough to participate, and some insurance plans do not cover the costs associated with clinical trials. Patients may also hesitate because they fear receiving only a placebo instead of treatment. However, in modern clinical trials, new cancer drugs are tested against the current standard therapy, so that all participants receive treatment.


New Melanoma Combo Treatment Is Promising in Early Trial

Because melanomas can quickly resist BRAF inhibitor drugs alone or in combination with MEK inhibitors, researchers are testing a new combination treatment: the BRAF inhibitor vemurafenib and PX-866, which inhibits a cancer pathway called PI3K. In a phase I/II clinical trial of 19 people with melanomas that have BRAF mutations, the vemurafenib/PX-866 combination shrank tumors in 10 of them. These findings were presented at the 10th International Congress of the Society for Melanoma Research in Philadelphia. However, while results so far are encouraging, it will take larger trials to see if this new combo treatment really overcomes drug resistance in melanomas. This ongoing trial is still accepting new participants.


New Melanoma Immunotherapy Advances in Early Trials

On the strength of a promising phase I clinical trial, evaluations are continuing for an experimental immunotherapy that targets and selectively kills melanoma cells. Called IMCgp100, the drug has two parts that are fused together. One part is an immune system protein that has been engineered to recognize a protein called gp100, which is on the surface of melanoma cells. The other part of the new drug is a protein fragment that boosts the immune response against the tumor. The phase II trial of IMCgp100 is currently recruiting new participants.