Previous research has demonstrated that many patients enrolled in clinical trials incorrectly believe that the primary purpose of the trial is to benefit participants rather than to advance therapy for future patients. Researchers at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute reported at the annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology that a recent survey suggests that there is also disagreement among oncologists in the United States about the purpose of clinical trials.
Steven Joffe, MD, and Jane Weeks, MD, of the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute surveyed 539 oncologists about their reasons for enrolling patients into clinical trials as well as about their views on the underlying purposes of clinical trials. They found that 43% of adult oncologists and 64% of pediatric oncologists enrolled patients in order to give them access to "state-of-the-art" therapy. In addition, only 73% of adult oncologists and 59% of pediatric oncologists agreed that the main purpose of clinical trials is to improve treatment for future patients.
According to the researchers, these findings suggest the existence of a "provocative view in oncology that clinical trials perfectly harmonize the objectives of treatment and research." The belief that studies are directed primarily to benefit the participant also challenges the commonly held principle that research is conducted for scientific knowledge and the improvement of future therapy.