An intervention to improve cancer patients' understanding of early-phase clinical trials

IRB: Ethics & Human Research 31 (3):1 (2009)
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Participants in clinical research sometimes view participation as therapy or exaggerate potential benefits, especially in phase I or phase II trials. We conducted this study to discover what methods might improve cancer patients’ understanding of early-phase clinical trials. We randomly assigned 130 cancer patients from three U.S. medical centers who were considering enrollment in a phase I or phase II cancer trial to receive either a multimedia intervention or a National Cancer Institute pamphlet explaining the trial and its purpose. Intervention participants were 32 times more likely to believe that the trial’s purpose was to examine safety and 60 % less likely to believe they would experience long-term benefit or cure. There was no difference in enrollment decision. However, while patients’ understanding of the trial’s purpose improved and expectations of long-term benefit diminished, half the respondents still believed they would experience long-term benefit or cure from participation. Therefore, we conclude that multimedia interventions such as this one may help oncologists to explain the risks and benefits of early-phase cancer trials in a way that patients can more easily understand, helping them to make more informed decisions about participation. But further research into other factors that influence patients’ beliefs about the outcome of enrollment is needed, both to modify the interventions and to determine how malleable patient beliefs are



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