Healthwatch: Research Subjects Needed

By: Mavis Prall
By: Mavis Prall

Apparently too few cancer patients of both genders are enrolling in studies, and the shortage is slowing down the war on cancer.

A new study in the Journal of the American Medical Association says that, nationwide, too few cancer patients of color are enrolling in research studies to test new treatments, and it's not only people of color who aren't participating, it's the vast majority of adult cancer patients.

"The progress that we're making in the war on cancer is being significantly slowed because we're not able to get enough patients to participate in research studies," said Dr. Cary Gross.

He and his colleagues at Yale University School of Medicine reviewed national cancer data for 1996 through 2002. They compared the number of adult cancer patients in the U.S to the number of those patients enrolled in research studies. They found that just two percent or one out of every 50 adult cancer patients participated in a research study.

"This means that 49 out of 50 patients are missing out on the chance to receive new and potentially superior treatments for their disease. More importantly, we as a society are missing out because we don't have the opportunity to see which treatments are better for patients," said Gross.

Dr. Gross said that while enrollment in cancer trials is low for all patient groups, it's lowest for minorities, women and the elderly.

Gross said the decline in blacks participating in cancer trials in recent years is surprising, given the national institute of health's effort to recruit more African Americans.

Study recruiter Crystal Willoughby is trying to reverse the decline.

"It's very important for people to enroll in research studies because we need to know if the new medications will work or if they won't work," said Willoughby. "It's important for us to have diverse populations because we need to know if they're going to work with each population as well."

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