Objectives: Enrollment of adult cancer patients in clinical trials remains low, particularly in the minority population. Understanding patient attitudes towards clinical trials during the recruitment process may enhance accrual. Unfortunately, data describing patient attitudes towards clinical trials are limited, particularly in the radiation oncology clinic setting.
Methods: A piloted questionnaire assessing basic demographics and attitudes toward clinical trials was offered in 2 radiation oncology clinics between April 2003 and October 2003. The questionnaire was completed by 166 patients. The mean age of the patients completing the questionnaire was 56 years (range, 15-84 years). Of the 166 patients included in the analysis, 108 (65%) were White. The most common cancer diagnoses included prostate (19%), head and neck (16%), and breast (14%).
Results: There was no statistical difference between Whites and non-Whites regarding their interest in learning about clinical trials (84.3% versus 84.9%, P = 0.92); nor was there a significant difference in the rate of previous or current trial enrollment (21.3% versus 34.0%, P = 0.08). White patients were more likely to gather information about clinical trials from the Internet (30.6% versus 11.3%, P = 0.007), and they were more likely to use physicians as a source of this information (50.0% versus 34.0%, P = 0.05). Non-White patients were more likely to obtain information about clinical trials from other patients (24.5% versus 12.0%, P = 0.04). In addition, more non-White patients believed they had been treated on clinical trials without their knowledge (21.6% versus 9.3%, P = 0.032). Patients differed somewhat in their expectations of clinical trials. More non-Whites indicated that they would need a >50% chance of benefiting from a trial (64.4% versus 45.0%, P = 0.03) to enroll on that trial, though there were no statistical differences in outlook towards potential toxicities associated with treatment on a clinical trial.
Conclusions: Minority patients historically enroll in clinical trials at a significantly lower rate. Our study of radiation oncology patients documents significant differences in attitudes towards clinical trials between Whites and non-Whites. Understanding the differences in attitudes may allow physicians to overcome barriers that would otherwise hinder the enrollment of non-White patients into clinical trials.