In the U.S., older adolescents and young adults with cancer have benefited less from therapeutic advances than did either younger or older patients. One factor that may explain this deficit is the relative lack of participation of patients in this age group on clinical trials of therapies that could improve their outcome. Comparisons were made of the participation of cancer patients on clinical trials in the U.S., as a function of patient age, with the change in national cancer mortality rate; and Surveillance, Epidemiology, End Results (SEER) cancer survival rate as a function of age. The participation rate in cancer treatment trials has been strikingly lower in 15-34-year-olds than in younger or older patients. The nadir has been apparent for both males and females in all of the major ethnic and racial groups. The national cancer mortality reduction and SEER survival improvement shows a similar age dependence. In the U.S., the age-dependence of cancer treatment trial participation, and of improvement in survival prolongation and cancer death rates, are correlated. Regardless of whether there is a causal relationship, the impact on the older adolescent and young adult U.S. population is substantial, adversely affecting the national cost of healthcare, the person-years of life lost, the loss of young people entering the job market, and the scientific knowledge and social implications of cancer during adolescence and early adulthood. National initiatives are underway to address these issues, with special emphasis on increasing the availability and access to clinical trials designed for older adolescents and young adults.
(c) 2006 American Cancer Society.