Few physicians refer patients to clinical trials

Among 1,533 surveyed physicians caring for colorectal and lung cancer patients, 56.7 percent said they had referred or enrolled at least one person in a clinical trial during the past year, reports a study published recently in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

Because low enrollment in such studies limits the availability of new and state-of-the art therapies in clinical practice, researchers, led by Carrie N. Klabunde, PhD, of the National Cancer Institute, sought to examine the characteristics of physicians who refer patients to various types of trials vs. those who don't.

According to the survey, conducted by the Cancer Care Outcomes Research and Surveillance Consortium, physicians most likely to refer patients to clinical trials included medical oncologists, doctors who taught medical students or residents, and those who were affiliated with a Community Clinical Oncology Program or National Cancer Institute-designated cancer center. In addition, doctors who saw more patients, and who spent more time with new patients, were among the most likely to refer their patients to clinical trials.

Reasons physicians may not recommend trials include lack of awareness of the trials, lack of access to trials (meaning they'd have to send patients elsewhere) and a perception that trials are only to be recommended as a last resort, according to researchers.

"Not every physician should be expected to actively accrue patients onto clinical trials, but all physicians should understand the value of clinical trials and know how to refer patients," they wrote. "If we want research to inform practice, we need a work force of physicians who value the research and understand how to incorporate research results into their practice."

To learn more:
- read the article in WebMD
- see this piece in MedPage Today
- check out the abstract from the Journal of the National Cancer Institute