Cancer comorbidities reduce clinical trial enrollment, study finds

Cancer patients with other illnesses or conditions are less likely to talk with their provider about a cancer clinical trial and less likely to enroll in a trial, according a SWOG Cancer Research Network study.

SWOG is an international cancer clinical trials network funded by the National Cancer Institute.

The researchers found expanding clinical trial eligibility criteria to allow patients with comorbidities would give opportunities for up to 6,317 cancer patients to be allowed to join a trial every year. These patients could receive an investigational treatment option that could extend or improve their lives.

"Comorbidities have a clear, negative impact on both trial decision-making and participation," said Joseph Unger, PhD, a health services researcher and biostatistician for SWOG at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle. "Allowing people with manageable comorbidities to join trials would increase treatment opportunities for several thousand patients."

The authors recommended modifying trial participation guidelines to let five groups join trials: patients with brain metastases; patients as young as 12 years old; patients with HIV/AIDS; patients with a prior cancer diagnosis; and patients with kidney, liver or other organ dysfunction.

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