Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of the Magnitude of Structural, Clinical, and Physician and Patient Barriers to Cancer Clinical Trial Participation

J Natl Cancer Inst. 2019 Mar 1;111(3):245-255. doi: 10.1093/jnci/djy221.


Background: Barriers to cancer clinical trial participation have been the subject of frequent study, but the rate of trial participation has not changed substantially over time. Studies often emphasize patient-related barriers, but other types of barriers may have greater impact on trial participation. Our goal was to examine the magnitude of different domains of trial barriers by synthesizing prior research.

Methods: We conducted a systematic review and meta-analysis of studies that examined the trial decision-making pathway using a uniform framework to characterize and quantify structural (trial availability), clinical (eligibility), and patient/physician barrier domains. The systematic review utilized the PubMed, Google Scholar, Web of Science, and Ovid Medline search engines. We used random effects to estimate rates of different domains across studies, adjusting for academic vs community care settings.

Results: We identified 13 studies (nine in academic and four in community settings) with 8883 patients. A trial was unavailable for patients at their institution 55.6% of the time (95% confidence interval [CI] = 43.7% to 67.3%). Further, 21.5% (95% CI = 10.9% to 34.6%) of patients were ineligible for an available trial, 14.8% (95% CI = 9.0% to 21.7%) did not enroll, and 8.1% (95% CI = 6.3% to 10.0%) enrolled. Rates of trial enrollment in academic (15.9% [95% CI = 13.8% to 18.2%]) vs community (7.0% [95% CI = 5.1% to 9.1%]) settings differed, but not rates of trial unavailability, ineligibility, or non-enrollment.

Conclusions: These findings emphasize the enormous need to address structural and clinical barriers to trial participation, which combined make trial participation unachievable for more than three of four cancer patients.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Clinical Trials as Topic / methods*
  • Clinical Trials as Topic / psychology*
  • Decision Making*
  • Eligibility Determination
  • Humans
  • Neoplasms / psychology*
  • Neoplasms / therapy
  • Patient Acceptance of Health Care
  • Patient Participation / psychology
  • Patient Participation / statistics & numerical data*
  • Patient Selection*
  • Physician-Patient Relations
  • Physicians / psychology*