Factors that influence the recruitment of patients to Phase III studies in oncology
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BACKGROUND: The multiple determinants of a patient's decision to enter into a clinical trial have been explored largely from the perspectives of patients and their physicians. Little research has involved clinical research associates (CRAs) formally, despite their central role in the process of recruitment. The current study was initiated to explore the factors that influence the decision of patients with cancer regarding clinical trial entry, specifically from the perspective of the CRA. METHODS: Two focus groups of CRAs from the Hamilton Regional Cancer Center were organized. A skilled facilitator guided both groups through exploratory and subsequent confirmatory phases of discussions, which were audiotaped for review and coding using a process of consensus employing intercoder triangulation. RESULTS: The two groups identified a number of factors that they believed influenced the recruitment process. Numerous physician and patient factors were reaffirmed, such as the impression of the scientific merit of a study or the sense of personal benefit, respectively. More uniquely, CRAs identified information transfer within the informed consent process as a major aspect of their specialized role. It was believed that full disclosure of information, in terms of both the content and the techniques and styles of delivery, was an important predictor of recruitment success. The groups quickly reached consensus on which factors they believed were the most important overall with respect to influencing study recruitment. CONCLUSIONS: CRAs appear to have a unique role in the process of recruiting patients to active clinical trials. They believe that they have an important influence on recruitment success. Further research to validate this impression is required, because, ultimately, a greater understanding of the relative roles of physician and patient factors and, potentially, CRA factors will be important in the development of ethical and supportive strategies to optimize the recruitment of patients with cancer into randomized clinical trials.
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