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J Clin Oncol. 1995 May;13(5):1062-72.

Perceptions of cancer patients and their physicians involved in phase I trials.

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Department of Medicine, University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine, IL, USA.

Erratum in

  • J Clin Oncol 1995 Sep;13(9):2476.



In an attempt to understand some of the complex issues related to the participation of cancer patients in phase I trials, and the perceptions of patients toward these trials, we conducted a pilot survey study of 30 cancer patients who had given informed consent to participate in a phase I trial at our institution. Concurrently, the oncologists identified by the surveyed patients as responsible for their care were surveyed as well.


Twenty-seven of 30 consecutive patients agreed to and completed the survey. Patients were surveyed before they received any investigational agents. Eighteen oncologists participated in this survey study.


Eighty-five percent of patients decided to participate in a phase I trial for reasons of possible therapeutic benefit, 11% because of advice/trust of physicians, and 4% because of family pressures. Ninety-three percent said that they understood all (33%) or most (60%) of the information provided about the trials in which they had decided to participate. Only 33% were able to state the purpose of the trial in which they were participating, with patients able to state the purpose of phase I trials being more educated (P = .01). Surveyed oncologists had wide-ranging beliefs regarding expectations of possible benefits and toxicities for their patients participating in phase I trials.


Cancer patients who participate in phase I trials are strongly motivated by the hope of therapeutic benefit. Altruistic feelings appear to have a limited and inconsequential role in motivating patients to participate in these trials. Cancer patients who participate in phase I trials appear to have an adequate self-perceived knowledge of the risks of investigational agents. However, only a minority of patients appear to have an adequate understanding of the purpose of phase I trials as dose-escalation/dose-determination studies.

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