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Cancer Patients Have Unrealistic Hopes Entering Clinical Trials

Study finding is a red flag, researcher says

MONDAY, Sept. 26, 2016 (HealthDay News) — Many cancer patients hold unrealistic hopes when they decide to join early-stage clinical trials of experimental treatments, according to research published online Sept. 26 in Cancer.

Researchers asked 396 cancer patients who were considering enrollment in a phase 1 trial to complete a questionnaire about reasons why they wanted to take part. After meeting with their doctor, 301 patients completed a second questionnaire.

Without a discussion of potential risks and benefits, 43 percent predicted their tumor would shrink. Once they had learned more about the trials, 47 percent predicted their tumor would shrink. The study authors said this percentage is much higher than realistic for early-stage studies. Before talking with their doctor, 72 percent said they would consider enrolling. After a discussion, 84 percent were willing to enroll.

“There is a positive message in this, which is that 84 percent of patients are willing to participate in phase 1 oncology studies after a discussion with clinical and nursing staff who lay out the conservative estimates of benefit and requirements of hospital visits,” lead author Udai Banerji, M.D., Ph.D., deputy director of the Drug Development Union at The Institute of Cancer Research in London, said in a journal news release. But, Banerji called the high percentage of cancer patients who expected their tumor to shrink a red flag. “This creates a challenge for health care professionals to manage expectations but to do so without being patronizing or dismissing human hope,” he said.

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