According to the recent study conducted at Penn State College of Medicine and published in the Journal of the National Comprehensive Cancer Network, a very low percentage of patients with cancer participate in clinical trials as the first course of therapy. In this study, data was gathered by Nicholas G. Zaorsky, MD, assistant professor of radiation oncology at Penn State College of Medicine and his colleagues. 

The study consisted of demographic and clinical data from the National Cancer Database on more than 12 million patients with 4 to 6 types of cancer between 2004 and 2015. Among this, only 0.1 % (11,577) patients participated in clinical trials as their first course of cancer therapy after diagnosis. 

A greater proportion of trial participants vs. nonparticipants were white (88% vs. 84.8%), had metastatic disease (30.9% vs. 16.4%), had private/managed care insurance (56.4% vs. 41.8%) and had fewer comorbidities (Charlson-Deyo score 0, 81.9% vs. 75.7%). 

Dr. Zaorsky said,” There just aren’t that many clinical trials available for patients when they’re first diagnosed with cancer, there may be trials available for patients whose disease comes back, but not as many for patients just diagnosed. For the trials that do exist, there are some preferences for the patients who will be enrolled.” 

Dr. Zaorsky also spoke about the need for more comprehensive trials, the value of breaking down barriers to patients and the potential for life-saving participation in clinical trials as a first step.