Background: Recruitment of minorities to cancer prevention trials is difficult and costly. Early-phase cancer prevention trials have fewer resources to promote recruitment. Identifying cost-effective strategies that can replace or supplement traditional recruitment methods and improve minority accrual to small, early-phase cancer prevention trials are of critical importance.
Purpose: To compare the costs of accrual strategies used in a small breast cancer prevention trial and assess their impact on recruitment and minority accrual.
Methods: A total of 1196 potential subjects with a known recruitment source contacted study coordinators about the SOY study, a breast cancer prevention trial. Recruitment strategies for this study included recruitment from within the Northwestern University network (internal strategy), advertisements placed on public transportation (Chicago Transit Authority (CTA)), health-related events, media (print/radio/television), and direct mail. Total recruitment strategy cost included the cost of study personnel and material costs calculated from itemized receipts. Incremental cost-effectiveness ratios (ICERs) were calculated to compare the relative cost-effectiveness of each recruitment strategy. If a strategy was more costly and less effective than its comparator, then that strategy was considered dominated. Scenarios that were not dominated were compared. The primary effectiveness measure was the number of consents. Separate ICERs were calculated using the number of minority consents as the effectiveness measure.
Results: The total cost of SOY study recruitment was US$164,585, which included the cost of materials (US$26,133) and personnel (US$138,452). The internal referral strategy was the largest source of trial contacts (748/1196; 63%), consents (107/150; 71%), and minority consents (17/34; 50%) and was the most expensive strategy (US$139,033). CTA ads generated the second largest number of trial contacts (326/1196; 27%), the most minority contacts (184/321; 57%), and 16 minority consents (16/34; 47%), at a total cost of US$15,562. The other three strategies yielded many fewer contacts and consents. The methods of health events, CTA ads, and the internal strategy showed some evidence of cost-effectiveness (ICER: US$581, US$717, and US$1524, respectively). The CTA strategy was the most cost-effective strategy for minority accrual (ICER: US$908).
Limitations: Recall bias may have limited the accuracy of estimated time spent on recruitment by study personnel. Also, costs spent specifically on minority accrual were unobtainable; results may not be generalizable to other settings; and cost-effectiveness data for the methods of media, health events, and direct mail should be interpreted with caution since these methods generated few consents.
Conclusions: Public transportation ads have the potential to generate numerous minority contacts and consents at a reasonable cost within an urban setting. Combined with traditional methods of recruitment, this method can lead to timelier study completion and increased minority accrual. Future research should prospectively track recruitment and costs in order to better assess the cost-effectiveness of recruitment methods used to target minority populations.