Race influences participation in clinical trials

Caucasian and non-Caucasian cancer patients are equally interested in learning about clinical trials. However, non-Caucasian patients are less likely to enroll in a trial unless the chances are high that it would benefit them, according to a new study presented October 4, 2004, at the American Society for Therapeutic Radiology and Oncology’s 46th Annual Meeting in Atlanta.

Enrollment of adult cancer patients in clinical trials remains low, particularly in the minority population. To better understand patient attitudes, researchers sought to evaluate what factors influence a patient’s decision to enroll in a clinical trial.

In this study, researchers surveyed 166 cancer patients over eight months in 2003 at two radiation oncology clinics about their attitudes toward clinical trials. The ages of the patients ranged from 15 to 84, with the mean being 56 years old. The most common cancer diagnoses were prostate, head and neck and breast cancer.

Researchers found that both Caucasians and minorities showed almost equal interest in learning about clinical trials. However, Caucasian patients were more likely to gather information on trials from the Internet (31 percent vs. 11 percent) and were more apt to talk with their doctors about clinical trials (50 percent vs. 34 percent). Non-Caucasian patients were more likely to talk with other patients about clinical trial enrollment (25 percent vs. 12 percent). In addition, more minority patients believe they have been treated in the past on a clinical trial without their knowledge (22 percent vs. 9 percent).

Patients also differed on their expectations of clinical trials. More minority patients indicated that they would need a greater than 50 percent chance of benefiting from the trial (64 percent vs. 45 percent), though there were no differences between the two groups on their outlook on potential side effects from the treatment.

“Historically, minority cancer patients have enrolled in clinical trials at a significantly lower rate than their Caucasian counterparts,” said Charles Wood, M.D., lead author of the study and a radiation oncologist at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. “By identifying attitudes affecting enrollment, I’m hopeful that physicians will be able to better overcome barriers that would otherwise keep patients from enrolling in clinical trials.”

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