New Study Shows Cancer Comorbidities Reduce Clinical Trial Participation

Cancer patients with other illnesses or conditions, such as hypertension, asthma, or a prior cancer, are less likely to talk with their health care provider about a cancer clinical trial, are less likely to be offered to join a clinical trial, and ultimately less likely to enroll in a trial, according to the results of a new SWOG Cancer Research Network study. Leading breast cancer expert Dawn L. Hershman, MD, a member of the Herbert Irving Comprehensive Cancer Center (HICCC), was part of the SWOG team that conducted the study--the first to examine the link between patient comorbidities and trial participation using real-world, patient-level data. Results appear in JAMA Oncology, with an accompanying editorial and podcast. 

Investigators from SWOG, which is an international cancer clinical trials network funded by the National Cancer Institute (NCI), also reported a timely secondary finding. New recommendations to expand clinical trial eligibility criteria to allow patients with additional illnesses, called comorbidities, as promoted by the American Society of Clinical Oncologists (ASCO), Friends of Cancer Research (Friends), and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), would provide opportunities for up to 6,317 cancer patients each year to be allowed to join a trial - and receive an investigational treatment option that could extend or improve their lives.

"Cancer clinical trials provide high-quality, guideline-based care for cancer patients," said Joseph Unger, PhD, a health services researcher and biostatistician for SWOG at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. "But many patients who might benefit from choosing trial participation for their care have historically been ineligible - something ASCO, Friends, and the FDA are moving to change. Our analysis found that their efforts are on target. Comorbidities have a clear, negative impact on both trial decision-making and participation. Allowing people with manageable comorbidities to join trials would increase treatment opportunities for several thousand patients." For more, read the complete press release, "Cancer Comorbidities Reduce Clinical Trial Participation, new SWOG Study Shows". 

Dr. Hershman directs the Breast Cancer Program at HICCC and is professor of medicine and epidemiology at NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia University Irving Medical Center. She has developed nationally recognized expertise in breast cancer treatment, prevention and survivorship.