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Clinical trial enrollment linked to lower death rate in lung cancer patients



Patients with metastatic non–small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) who enrolled in clinical trials had a near 50% lower risk of death versus patients who received treatment outside a clinical trial, according to results of a single-center, retrospective medical record review.

Median survival was almost doubled for those patients with NSCLC enrolled in therapeutic drug trials, according to lead author Christina Merkhofer, MD, a hematology-oncology fellow at the University of Washington and Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center, both in Seattle.

The findings suggest that clinical trials, beyond supporting drug development, provide a direct benefit to NSCLC patients through provision of promising agents, enhanced supportive care, or both, according to Dr. Merkhofer and coauthors, who will present their findings in a poster at the Quality Care Symposium, sponsored by the American Society of Clinical Oncology.

The retrospective study included a total of 371 patients diagnosed with metastatic NSCLC between 2001 and 2015, of whom 118 (32%) enrolled in at least one clinical trial, Dr. Merkhofer reported at a press briefing ahead of the symposium.

Median survival was 838 days for the clinical trial enrollees versus 454 days for nonenrollees, according to the investigators. The risk of death was 47% lower (hazard ratio, 0.53; 95% confidence interval, 0.13-0.92; P = .002) for enrollees relative to nonenrollees after adjustment for variables including sex, performance status, smoking history, histology, presence of brain metastases, and EGFR/ALK status.

Based on this study by Dr. Merkhofer and colleagues, participating in therapeutic drug trials appears to improve survival in patients with advanced lung cancer, ASCO expert Merry-Jennifer Markham, MD, said in a statement.

Oncologists have a “duty” to enroll patients in clinical trials as appropriate, said Dr. Markham, chair of the Quality Care Symposium’s news planning team.

“We must work to better understand factors associated with enrollment so that the prospective benefits can be made accessible to all who are eligible,” she said.

The research is part of a larger investigation looking at “areas of uncertainty” in clinical trial participation, such as whether specific trial design characteristics are linked to survival benefit, according to Dr. Merkhofer.

“The study can support research evaluating health care policies or research that looks at incentives for patient participation in trials, such as financing transportation or lodging, [and] can help with research that addresses some of these important barriers to trial participation,” Dr. Merkhofer said in an ASCO press release.

Dr. Merkhofer had no disclosures related to the study. Her coauthors reported disclosures related to numerous pharmaceutical companies.

SOURCE: Merkhofer C et al. QCS2019, Abstract 137.

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