Patient adherence and persistence with oral anticancer treatment

CA Cancer J Clin. 2009 Jan-Feb;59(1):56-66. doi: 10.3322/caac.20004.


Given the recent significant increase in the use of oral therapies in cancer management, an understanding of patients' adherence to and persistence with oral therapy is crucial. Nonadherence and early cessation may be substantial barriers to the delivery of valuable therapies, and may impair health. Potential obstacles to adherence and persistence include personal characteristics, treatment features, and system factors. Techniques for measuring adherence and persistence include self-report, pill counts, microelectronic monitoring systems (MEMS), prescription database analysis, and the assessment of serum or urine drug levels. This review article describes available data regarding adherence and persistence among patients with cancer, as well as studies of interventions to improve adherence. All reports of studies of adherence with oral cancer therapy that the authors could find on PubMed or in the reference sections of these PubMed-located articles were included. Adherence and persistence rates ranged from 16% to 100% with different therapies and different methods of measurement. Studies that included educational, behavioral, and multidimensional interventions to improve adherence were also described.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Oral
  • Adult
  • Antineoplastic Agents / administration & dosage*
  • Child
  • Clinical Trials as Topic
  • Evidence-Based Medicine
  • Health Behavior
  • Humans
  • Medication Adherence* / psychology
  • Motivation
  • Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Neoplasms / psychology
  • Patient Compliance / psychology
  • Patient Education as Topic


  • Antineoplastic Agents