ROMEA panel of cancer experts has called upon clinicians to do
more to inform and counsel their patients about clinical trials. The
plea was voiced during a webcast discussion sponsored by the Susan G.
Komen Breast Cancer Foundation and held at the 5th Annual
Multidisciplinary Symposium on Breast Diseases.
We need to do a better job of educating people about why
clinical trials are important, said Diana Rowden, immediate
past chairman of the Komen Foundation Board of Directors. She added
that potential participants must be assured about the scientific
rigor and safety of any trial.
Rates of involvement in clinical trials are low in the United States,
compared to many European countries, according to Komen Foundation
President Susan Braun, who moderated the discussion. Fewer than 5% of
adult cancer patients in the United States participate in new drug
trials, she said. Lack of patient education about clinical trials in
general is thought to be a factor.
There is a misconception, particularly among Americans, that if
youre on a trial, you are somehow receiving an inferior
treatment, said David Page, MD, professor of pathology and
epidemiology, Vanderbilt University. In fact, he asserted,
participants in randomized trials are assigned to one of the
two best possible treatments that could be offered. They are getting
Participation in clinical trials represents a time burden on
physicians, panel members acknowledged, beginning with discussing the
possibility with patients.
It takes some time to have this conversation, said
Patricia A. Ganz, MD, of the Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center,
UCLA. We hope to have that kind of involved conversation with
every patient, even if it isnt related to a trial, but then
adding the trial on top of that extends it.
Dr. Page observed that having patients enrolled in a clinical trial
presents practical difficulties. Theres a need for
support staff. You need to spend time explaining the trial; you need
to be able to collect data.
He commended the Komen Foundations Project CRAFT, which
provides funding to surmount that barrier. Project CRAFT, which
stands for Clinical ResearchAffiliates Funding Trials, was
begun in 1999 to increase participation in and access to NCI-approved
cancer trials. It will provide financial support for aspects of
trials not typically funded by government or institutional sources.
This helps create an infrastructure so that doctors can enter
their patients in a trial without interfering with their daily
practice, Dr. Page said.
Dr. Ganz concluded, Were very fortunate that there are
usually enough trials available to cover various forms of breast
cancer. Still, she acknowledged, Not everyone wants to go
into an experimental study, and I think a woman who does is extremely
For More Information
Information about cancer clinical trials can be found on the National
links to NCIs PDQ (http://cancernet.nci.nih.gov/pdq.htm)
For a complete listing of clinical trials, searchable by disease, go
Information about the Komen Foundations Project CRAFT can be