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Case Works to Convince More Cancer Patients to Take Part in Clinical Trials

Wednesday, August 6, 2014 at 3:59 PM

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Cancer researchers say there aren’t enough patients taking part in clinical trials. Case Western Reserve University says that’s causing delays in getting life-saving treatments to market, and it has a plan to change that. ideastream’s Joanna Richards reports.

Clinical trials are how new medical treatments are tested and proven. But few cancer patients take part in them. The problem’s been around for years, and it’s bad enough that a significant number of studies are never completed because of a lack of participants.

That’s according to Neal Meropol, the head of hematology and oncology at Case. He said patients don’t participate for a variety of reasons. Many are unaware of the opportunity. Some have misconceptions. Others have specific concerns: “fear of being a guinea pig or of getting a placebo instead of a real therapy,” he said.

But Meropol said clinical trials represent the latest thinking in treatment, and can offer hope when other strategies aren’t working. So, to get more patients in the pipeline, Case is running a nationwide program, funded by the National Cancer Institute, to see whether nurses can help solve the problem.

The five-year study will provide different types of education about clinical trials to oncology nurses across the country, and look at what works best to improve their knowledge, attitudes and ability to discuss the option with patients, “and ultimately improve how patients feel about clinical trials, and hopefully improve their likelihood of deciding to take part in a clinical trial,” Meropol said.

That, he hopes, will help improve treatment for patients in the future.

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