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Int J Radiat Oncol Biol Phys. 1998 Jan 1;40(1):9-15.

Sociodemographic analysis of patients in radiation therapy oncology group clinical trials.

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  • 1Department of Epidemiology, The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center, Houston 77030, USA.



To assess the degree to which the sociodemographic characteristics of patients enrolled in Radiation Therapy Oncology Group (RTOG) clinical trails are representative of the general population.


Sociodemographic data were collected on 4016 patients entered in 33 open RTOG studies between July 1991 and June 1994. The data analyzed included educational attainment, age, gender, and race. For comparison, we obtained similar data from the U.S. Department of Census. We also compared our RTOG data with Surveillance Epidemiology and End Results (SEER) data for patients who received radiation therapy, to determine how RTOG patients compared with cancer patients in general, and with patients with cancers at sites typically treated with radiotherapy.


Overall, the sociodemographic characteristics of patients entered in RTOG trials were similar to those of the Census data. We found that, in every age group of African-American men and at nearly every level of educational attainment, the proportion of RTOG trial participants mirrored the proportion in the census data. Significant differences were noted only in the youngest category of African-American men, where the RTOG accrues more in the lower educational categories and fewer with college experience. For African-American women, we found a similar pattern in every age group and at each level of educational attainment. As with men, RTOG trials accrued a considerably larger proportion of younger, less educated African-American women than the census reported. Using SEER for comparison, the RTOG enrolled proportionately more African-American men to trials all cancer sites combined, and for prostate and head and neck cancer. In head and neck trials, the RTOG enrolled nearly twice as many African-American men than would be predicted by SEER data. In lung cancer trials, RTOG underrepresented African-American men significantly; however, there was no difference for brain cancer trials. There were no racial differences in RTOG accrual and SEER incidence data for women on trials in brain, lung, and head and neck cancer. However, the RTOG trials accrued nearly twice the proportion of African-American women in cervical cancer trials and in all sites combined, compared to the SEER data.


Comparisons with the U.S. Census and SEER show that African-Americans are proportionally well represented in cancer clinical trials conducted by the Radiation Therapy Oncology Group. The comparative analysis indicates that all educational levels in each age group of African-Americans generally mirror the U.S. Census, with one exception. The exception is a significant overrepresentation of less-educated African-Americans in the youngest age category. This exception is counter to the expectation that better-educated patients are more likely to enroll in trials. When compared with SEER data, the RTOG trials either parallel or overrepresent African-American men and women, with the only exception being in lung cancer, where men are underrepresented. These results show that, in comparison to the Census and SEER data, the RTOG has fulfilled its commitment to enroll African-American patients in its clinical trials.

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