Dearth of Patient Volunteers Cripples Cancer Research

Just 3% of adult patients take part in studies
By Matt Cantor,  Newser User
Posted Aug 3, 2009 11:38 AM CDT
Genzyme Corp. marked the grand opening of its new Framingham, Mass. Science Center, which works on early stage research.    (Business Wire: Photo)
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(Newser) – Cancer death rates have changed little in the past 40 years, and one big reason often goes unremarked on, experts say: only 3% of adult cancer patients participate in studies of treatments, the New York Times reports. More than a fifth of trials sponsored by the National Cancer Institute couldn’t enroll a single subject, doctors found. “We can’t improve survival unless we test new treatments against established ones,” says one doc.

A number of hurdles make research difficult. For one thing, doctors who encourage patients to participate can actually lose money by not administering chemotherapy. And patients who learn they have a life-threatening disease may be in no position to invest themselves in a trial. What to do? Experts recommend offering doctors and perhaps patients better financial benefits for involvement in trials, and making trials more efficient so fewer subjects are needed.