Top Reasons Patients Join Clinical Trials


Applied Clinical Trials

Recruiting patients remains one of the most difficult challenges clinical trial sponsors face.

Editor’s Note: This article is part of a series examining popular peer-reviewed articles from years past called “Peer-Reviews Revisited: Why You Should Read Today.” You can read the other articles in this series here.

Recruiting patients remains one of the most difficult challenges clinical trial sponsors face. Recognizing that fewer than five percent of eligible adult patients enroll in therapeutic trials, many sponsors have turned to supplemental recruitment, the practice of pre-qualifying community-based patients for referral to clinical trial sites for screening.

“The primary reason that patients do not participate is that they are unaware of opportunities to do so,” said Elisa Cascade, MBA, Vice President of Corporate Development at, an online network designed to link trial sponsors and investigators. “Physician investigator sites and other researches are actively seeking opportunities to make community-based patients aware of clinical trials. There was little information in the literature on patient-level interest in studies and patient characteristics associated with study interest.”

Ms. Cascade was lead author on a survey of nearly 8,600 patients that focused on drivers of patient interest in clinical trial participation. The study was conducted by Quintiles, where she was Vice President, Digital Patient Unit. The survey identified three key variables that explain patient interest in studies, age, condition, and treatment satisfaction.

  • Patients age 65 and over are less interested in trial participation than patients under 40 (odds ratio 0.549, p=0.03).

  • Patients dissatisfied with their current medications are more interested in studies (OR=2.105, p=0.0015).

  • Compared to patients with cardiovascular disease or diabetes, those with cancer (OR=0.56, p=0.0097) and gastrointestinal diseases (OR=0.414, p=.0420) are less interested in study participation.

“These findings have important implications for the clinical trial recruitment plan,” Ms. Cascade said. “Investigators who tailor their recruitment strategies to patients who are younger and have a greater dissatisfaction witdh their current treatment (due to bothersome side effects or unmet treatment need) should see a better return on investment for their patient outreach activities.”

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