One in five people with cancer participate in medical research studies

April 15, 2024
Study sheds light on how policies can further increase access to and participation in cancer research.

Researchers from Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center, the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network and peer institutions released new findings in the Journal of Clinical Oncology showing that when all types of cancer research studies are considered, at least one in five people with cancer in the U.S., or 21.9%, participate in some form of clinical research.

The study evaluated all categories of cancer studies, such as treatment trials, biorepository studies and quality of life studies—the first time an estimate of participation in all types of cancer studies has been reported. Moreover, enrollment in cancer treatment trials was 7.1%, a notably higher participation rate than previous estimates of 2%-3%.

The study also found that enrollment in treatment trials was over five-fold higher at National Cancer Institute-designated cancer centers than at community sites (21.6% versus 4.1%), reflecting the impact that NCI funding for staff and infrastructure has on an institution’s ability to offer trials and recruit patients.

Using deidentified accreditation data provided by the Commission on Cancer, the study updated decades-old estimates for participation in cancer research. This expanded analysis includes more than 70% of people diagnosed with cancer in the U.S. each year who received care at a variety of clinical settings, from community hospitals and academic medical centers to NCI-designated comprehensive cancer centers. Additionally, the study reflects the broad spectrum of cancer research including different study types and those sponsored by industry, government and other sources.

While previous estimates of participation in cancer research studies were derived solely from government-sponsored trials, the study authors used patient data from a diverse range of trial sponsors and care settings for this analysis. Importantly, the data included settings such as community hospitals, where a majority of U.S. cancer patients receive care.

People with cancer enrolled in many different types of clinical studies. The study found the following participation rates in each type of clinical study: biorepository (12.9%), treatment (7.1%), registry (7.3%), genetic (3.6%), quality-of-life (2.8%), diagnostic (2.5%) and economic studies (2.4%). Expanding the types of cancer clinical studies in this analysis demonstrates that there are a variety of ways people choose to participate in cancer research beyond the previous assessments, which were based only on participation in treatment studies.

Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center release on Newswise