Do we want more cancer patients on clinical trials If so, what are the barriers to greater accrual Editorial Article uri icon


MeSH Major

  • Blood Transfusion
  • Clinical Trials as Topic
  • Comparative Effectiveness Research
  • Congresses as Topic
  • National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (U.S.)


  • It is often stated that only a small proportion of adult cancer patients participate in clinical trials. This is said to be a bad thing, with calls for more trials to include more patients. Here I argue that whether or not greater accrual to clinical trials would be a good thing depends on the trials we conduct. The vast majority of clinical trials in cancer are currently early phase trials, and most do not lead to further studies even if they have encouraging results. The key metric is thus not the number of patients on clinical trials, but the number on the sort of large, randomized, Phase III trials that can be used as a basis for clinical decisions. I also address two important barriers to greater clinical trial participation. The first barrier is financial: clinical research has long been the poor cousin of basic research, with perhaps no more than a nickel in the cancer research dollar going to clinical research. The second barrier is regulatory: clinical research has become so overburdened by regulation that it takes years to initiate a trial, and dedicated staff just to deal with the paperwork once the trial starts. This not only adds significantly to the costs of clinical research, but scares many young investigators away. It has been estimated that nearly half of all US-sponsored trials are being conducted abroad, and it is plausible that excessive regulation is at least partly responsible. That statistic should serve as a wake-up call to the US clinical research community to implement the recommendations of the now decade-old report of National Cancer Institute Clinical Trials Program Review Group, which largely center around simplifying trials and streamlining trial procedures.

publication date

  • June 3, 2008



  • Editorial


Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1186/1745-6215-9-31

PubMed ID

  • 18522732

Additional Document Info

start page

  • 31


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