Importance: Participants in clinical trials may experience benefits associated with new therapeutic strategies as well as tight adherence to best supportive care practices.
Objectives: To investigate whether participation in a clinical trial is associated with improved survival among children with neuroblastoma and investigate potential recruitment bias of patients in clinical trials.
Design, setting, and participants: This cohort study included pediatric patients with intermediate- or high-risk neuroblastoma in North American studies who were included in the International Neuroblastoma Risk Group Data Commons and who received a diagnosis between January 1, 1991, and March 1, 2020.
Exposure: Enrollment in a clinical trial.
Main outcomes and measures: Event-free survival and overall survival (OS) of patients with intermediate- or high-risk neuroblastoma enrolled in an up-front Children's Oncology Group (COG) clinical trial vs a biology study alone were analyzed using log-rank tests and Cox proportional hazards regression models. The racial/ethnic composition and the demographic characteristics of the patients in both groups were compared.
Results: The cohort included 3058 children with intermediate-risk neuroblastoma (1533 boys [50.1%]; mean [SD] age, 10.7 [14.7] months) and 6029 children with high-risk neuroblastoma (3493 boys [57.9%]; mean [SD] age, 45.8 [37.4] months) who were enrolled in a Children's Oncology Group or legacy group neuroblastoma biology study between 1991 and 2020. A total of 1513 patients with intermediate-risk neuroblastoma (49.5%) and 2473 patients with high-risk neuroblastoma (41.0%) were also enrolled in a clinical trial, for a cohort total of 3986 of 9087 children (43.9%) enrolled in a clinical trial. The prevalence of prognostic markers for the clinical trial and non-clinical trial cohorts differed, although representation of patients from racial/ethnic minority groups was similar in both cohorts. Among patients with intermediate-risk neuroblastoma, OS was higher among those who participated in a clinical trial compared with those enrolled only in a biology study (OS, 95% [95% CI, 94%-96%] vs 91% [95% CI, 89%-94%]; P = .01). Among patients with high-risk neuroblastoma, participation in a clinical trial was not associated with OS (OS, 38% [95% CI, 35%-41%] in the clinical trial group vs 41% [95% CI, 38%-44%] in the biology study group; P = .23).
Conclusions and relevance: Approximately 44% of patients in this large cohort of patients with neuroblastoma were enrolled in up-front clinical trials. Compared with children not enrolled in clinical trials, a higher prevalence of favorable prognostic markers was identified among patients with intermediate-risk neuroblastoma enrolled in clinical trials, and unfavorable features were more prevalent among patients with high-risk neuroblastoma enrolled in clinical trials. No evidence of recruitment bias according to race/ethnicity was observed. Participation in a clinical trial was not associated with OS in this cohort, likely reflecting the common practice of treating nontrial participants with therapeutic and supportive care regimens used in a previous therapeutic trial.