Before consent: Qualitative analysis of deliberations of patients with advanced cancer about early-phase clinical trials

Sarah B. Garrett, Thea M. Matthews, Corey M. Abramson, Christopher J. Koenig, Fay J. Hlubocky, Christopher K. Daugherty, Pamela N. Munster, Daniel Dohan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


PURPOSE Patients with advanced cancer and oncologists deliberate about early-phase (EP) trials as they consider whether to pursue EP trial enrollment. We have limited information about those deliberations and how they may facilitate or impede trial initiation. This study describes these deliberations and their relationship to trial initiation. PATIENTS AND METHODS We collected longitudinal, ethnographic data on deliberations of patients with advanced cancer at two academic medical centers. We used constant comparative and framework analyses to characterize the deliberative process and its relationship to trial initiation. RESULTS Of 96 patients with advanced cancer, 26% initiated EP enrollment and 19% joined a trial. Constant comparative analysis revealed two foci of deliberation. Setting the stage focused on patient and physician support for EP trial involvement, including patients’ interest in research and oncologists’ awareness of trials and assessment of patient fit. Securing a seat focused on eligibility for and entrance to a specific trial and involved trial availability, treatment history, disease progression, and enrollment timing. Patients enrolled in a trial only when both stages could be successfully navigated. CONCLUSION Ethnographic data revealed two foci of deliberation about EP trial enrollment among patients with advanced cancer. Physician support played a consequential role in both stages, but enrollment also reflected factors beyond the control of any specific individual. Insights from this study, combined with other recent studies of trial enrollment, advance our understanding of the complex process of EP trial accrual and may help identify strategies to improve rates of participation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)E56-E63
JournalJournal of Oncology Practice
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Oncology(nursing)
  • Health Policy


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