What constitutes a "clinical trial"?: A survey of oncology professionals
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BACKGROUND: What constitutes a "clinical trial" is inconsistently defined in the medical literature. With an initiative by Cancer Care Ontario (CCO) to report institutional clinical trials activity across the province of Ontario, Canada, we sought to investigate the variability in the interpretation of the term by local oncology professionals. METHODS: A survey amongst the physicians and nurses at the Juravinski Cancer Centre at Hamilton Health Sciences, Ontario was conducted. The survey included 12 summaries of local clinical research studies, and respondents were asked which they believed represented a clinical trial. Subsequently, they were asked which of the same 12 studies they believed should be labeled as clinical trials when considering separate definitions provided by CCO and by the Ontario Cancer Research Network (OCRN). RESULTS: A total of 66 (54%) of 123 surveys were completed; 32/46 (70%) by physicians, 21/59 (36%) by primary care nurses, and 13/18 (72%) by clinical trial nurses. Without a standardized definition, all studies, 12/12, were considered to be clinical trials by at least 50% of respondents. When provided with the CCO definition only 6/12 studies were considered to be clinical trials by the majority of respondents, while with the OCRN definition it was 9/12 studies. Studies evaluating natural health products, non-traditional medical interventions, and non-randomized studies with standard interventions consistently ranked the lowest, regardless of the definition used. CONCLUSION: Oncology professionals appear to have a broadly inclusive baseline definition of what constitutes a clinical trial. Establishing rigor and consistency in the definition of a clinical trial is important for any program, institutional or jurisdictional based comparisons of clinical trials activity, especially when used as a quality indicator of patient care.
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