Perceptions of cancer patients and their physicians involved in phase I trials

J Clin Oncol. 1995 May;13(5):1062-72. doi: 10.1200/JCO.1995.13.5.1062.


Purpose: In an attempt to understand some of the complex issues related to the participation of cancer patients in phase I trials, and the perceptions of patients toward these trials, we conducted a pilot survey study of 30 cancer patients who had given informed consent to participate in a phase I trial at our institution. Concurrently, the oncologists identified by the surveyed patients as responsible for their care were surveyed as well.

Patients and methods: Twenty-seven of 30 consecutive patients agreed to and completed the survey. Patients were surveyed before they received any investigational agents. Eighteen oncologists participated in this survey study.

Results: Eighty-five percent of patients decided to participate in a phase I trial for reasons of possible therapeutic benefit, 11% because of advice/trust of physicians, and 4% because of family pressures. Ninety-three percent said that they understood all (33%) or most (60%) of the information provided about the trials in which they had decided to participate. Only 33% were able to state the purpose of the trial in which they were participating, with patients able to state the purpose of phase I trials being more educated (P = .01). Surveyed oncologists had wide-ranging beliefs regarding expectations of possible benefits and toxicities for their patients participating in phase I trials.

Conclusion: Cancer patients who participate in phase I trials are strongly motivated by the hope of therapeutic benefit. Altruistic feelings appear to have a limited and inconsequential role in motivating patients to participate in these trials. Cancer patients who participate in phase I trials appear to have an adequate self-perceived knowledge of the risks of investigational agents. However, only a minority of patients appear to have an adequate understanding of the purpose of phase I trials as dose-escalation/dose-determination studies.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Antineoplastic Agents / therapeutic use
  • Attitude of Health Personnel
  • Attitude to Health*
  • Clinical Trials, Phase I as Topic*
  • Comprehension*
  • Data Collection
  • Disclosure
  • Educational Status
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Informed Consent*
  • Karnofsky Performance Status
  • Male
  • Medical Oncology
  • Middle Aged
  • Motivation
  • Nontherapeutic Human Experimentation*
  • Personal Autonomy
  • Pilot Projects
  • Research Design
  • Research Subjects
  • Risk Assessment
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Trust
  • Truth Disclosure


  • Antineoplastic Agents