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.