Lessons learned from enrollment in the BEST study—A multicenter, randomized trial of group psychosocial support in metastatic breast cancer
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The BEST study, a multicenter randomized trial of group psychosocial support in metastatic breast cancer, had several unusual features that may have influenced recruitment, notably the group nature of the intervention and the need for close collaboration between medical and psychosocial investigators. The recruitment process was examined in light of these features. Establishment of study centers was facilitated by involvement of experienced medical investigators who had successfully collaborated in previous research projects. Systematic evaluation of potential subjects or direct recruitment by psychosocial investigators optimized recruitment; however, the group nature of the intervention prolonged recruitment. Overall, 652 women were approached and 237 (43.3% of those medically eligible) randomized. Using population-based estimates, 24.3% of women with metastatic breast cancer were assessed for the study and 8.7% randomized. A randomization ratio of 2:1 was required to form and maintain groups. Competing clinical trials were the greatest barrier to recruitment. Five lessons were learned during recruitment for this trial: (1) multicenter randomized trials of psychosocial interventions are feasible, even in very ill patients, (2) the use of a group intervention effectively increased the required sample size by 50%, (3) similarity of randomization rates suggests that generalizability of study results will probably be comparable to that of other randomized cancer trials, (4) multidisciplinary collaborations and involvement of experienced researchers facilitated enrollment, and (5) most challenges encountered in recruitment were similar to those seen in all clinical trials.