/publications/issue/2004/2004-04/2004-04-7832

Clinical Trials May Not Benefit Cancer Patients

Author: Susan Farley

According to the results of a recent study, published in the Lancet, cancer patients who participate in clinical trials are no better or worse off than patients who do not participate in trials. A common misperception is that cancer patients who get into clinical trials for new drug therapies and treatments have a better chance of recovery than those who do not. The researchers believe that this supposed benefit may be because these patients are more closely monitored or that their doctors adhere more rigorously to standard treatment plans. Steven Joffe, MD, of the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston, Mass, and his colleagues reviewed 26 published studies comparing outcomes of cancer patients in trials and outcomes of patients not in trials. Fourteen of the studies suggested more favorable outcomes for patients in studies, but the authors maintain that these studies did not control well for bias. Dr. Joffe said, "You don't know if the differences reflect the treatment or the fact that they were different to start with. Maybe [the patients] are going to a better treatment center, so the message is not necessarily, get yourself into a trial, but go to a good treatment center."\