American Cancer Specialists Disagree About the Purpose of Clinical Trials

July 1, 2002

Previous research has demonstrated that many patients enrolled in clinical trials incorrectly believe that the primary purpose of

Previous research has demonstrated thatmany patients enrolled in clinical trials incorrectly believe that the primarypurpose of the trial is to benefit participants rather than to advance therapyfor future patients. Researchers at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute reported at theannual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology that a recent surveysuggests that there is also disagreement among oncologists in the United Statesabout the purpose of clinical trials.

State-of-the-Art Therapy

Steven Joffe, MD, and Jane Weeks, MD, of the Dana-FarberCancer Institute surveyed 539 oncologists about their reasons for enrollingpatients into clinical trials as well as about their views on the underlyingpurposes of clinical trials. They found that 43% of adult oncologists and 64% ofpediatric oncologists enrolled patients in order to give them access to"state-of-the-art" therapy. In addition, only 73% of adult oncologistsand 59% of pediatric oncologists agreed that the main purpose of clinical trialsis 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 theobjectives of treatment and research." The belief that studies are directedprimarily to benefit the participant also challenges the commonly held principlethat research is conducted for scientific knowledge and the improvement offuture therapy.