Incorporation of quality of life (QOL) investigation into Eastern Cooperative Oncology Group (ECOG) multi-centre clinical trials has led to innovative strategies for protocol design and high quality data collection. A scientific advisory committee reviews protocol design components, measurement selection, timing of assessments and compliance issues. Extensive educational programmes provide information about the scientific and clinical relevance of QOL protocols, as well as practical strategies for data collection and management. Compliance with QOL data collection standards is prospectively monitored and evaluated. Preliminary results from eight ECOG-run protocols found overall compliance to be approximately 85 per cent (94 per cent at baseline and 73 per cent during treatment). Selected patient and institutional factors were evaluated for their association with compliance.