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J Clin Oncol. 1994 Sep;12(9):1796-805.

Fundamental dilemmas of the randomized clinical trial process: results of a survey of the 1,737 Eastern Cooperative Oncology Group investigators.

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  • 1York University, Department of Administrative Studies, Atkinson College, Ontario, Canada.



We studied oncologists' attitudes and behavior with regard to their participation in randomized clinical trials.


We surveyed the 1,737 physician members of the Eastern Cooperative Oncology Group (ECOG) using the Physician Orientation Profile (POP), a self-administered mailed questionnaire. A response rate of 86% was achieved (1,485 of 1,737); each physician's actual patient accrual was recorded.


All respondents indicated that they had a systematic pattern of patient preselection for entry onto trials beyond the formal inclusion/exclusion trial criteria. Eighty-nine percent stated that improving patient quality of life rather than prolonging survival was more personally satisfying. Sixty-two percent did not enter a single patient during the 12-month period following the survey, while 10% entered 80% of all patients during that time. Physicians overestimated their accrual rate by a factor of 6. Eighty-three percent defined randomization and adherence to trial protocol as a serious challenge to their ability to make individualized treatment decisions.


This study raises questions regarding the following: (1) the perceived generalizability of trial findings, (2) the role of end points other than survival for clinical trials, (3) the consequences of physician overestimation of patient accrual, and (4) the impact of randomized trials on the behavior of clinicians. Further investigation into these critical issues will provide meaningful recommendations to enhance the future design, implementation, and conduct of randomized clinical trials in cancer.

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