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Br J Cancer. 1995 Jun;71(6):1270-4.

Volunteers or victims: patients' views of randomised cancer clinical trials.

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Department of Medical Oncology, St Bartholomew's Hospital, West Smithfield, London, UK.


Randomised clinical trials are essential for the objective evaluation of different treatment strategies in cancer. However, in the field of oncology, very few of the eligible patients are entered into trials, and most treatments have only been tested on a small percentage of patients. For doctors, a major deterrent to participating in trials is the lack of resources--particularly time, but often also the local facilities. This report suggests that patients themselves are willing to take part in clinical research, and are attracted by being treated by a doctor with a specialist interest in the disease and encouraged by the possibility that their progress will be monitored closely. With the recent NHS changes, it is timely for the Department of Health and other national health departments to consider carefully what can be done to ensure that no new treatments are adopted without effective evaluation. This will require departments of health to identify and implement ways to facilitate accrual of appropriate numbers of patients onto research protocols (whether non-randomised phase I or phase II studies or large, multicentre phase III trials) over short time periods.

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