Benefit in Phase 1 Oncology Trials: Therapeutic Misconception or Reasonable Treatment Option?

ArticleinClinical Trials 5(6):617-23 · February 2008with8 Reads
DOI: 10.1177/1740774508097576 · Source: PubMed
Novel treatments for cancer are tested initially in phase 1 trials enrolling patients with advanced disease who have exhausted standard treatment options. Although these trials are designed to evaluate safety and to define dosing for future efficacy trials, most patients volunteer with the hope of obtaining medical benefit. Do phase 1 oncology trials promote a 'therapeutic misconception' among eligible patients about the personal meaning of trial participation, or do they offer them a reasonable prospect of direct medical benefit as compared with available alternatives? Recent evidence on outcomes of phase 1 oncology trials is examined systematically, with the aim of accurately assessing the prospect of direct medical benefit for participants and drawing implications for informed consent. We argue that, in view of important uncertainties, aggregate data from phase 1 trials relating to the surrogate outcomes of tumor shrinkage and stable disease do not permit any definitive estimate of a 'clinical benefit rate.' Nevertheless, these trials do offer participants a prospect of direct medical benefit. As a result, accurately informed patients may reasonably decide to enroll in phase 1 oncology trials in hopes of obtaining benefit, after considering the anticipated risks and available clinical alternatives. Motivation to enroll in these studies to receive personal benefit does not, in itself, compromise informed consent.
    • "It is no longer acceptable to rely solely on the scientific output of the clinical study when the patient's experience of the drug and choices made may be of equal importance, both to the sponsor and to the patient. The principal objective in an open-label Phase I oncology study, is to understand safety, tolerability and other aspects of the drug profile, and thus help define a recommended dose for further investigation [4]. A major component in determining this is deciding which dosing regimen is best tolerated by patients for the duration of study treatment. "
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Introduction: During early clinical testing of a new medication, it is critical to understand and characterise patient tolerability. However, in early clinical studies, it is difficult for patients to contribute directly to the sponsors' understanding of a new compound. Patient reported opinions about clinical tolerability (PROACT) provides a new, simple and innovative way in which patients can collaborate using an application downloaded to a mobile computer or smartphone. Methods: PROACT was designed with special consideration given to patient confidentiality, patient engagement and data security. A pilot study was conducted to investigate patient uptake of PROACT and to characterize clinical trial information it captured. Patients recruited to Phase I oncology trials at a UK center were eligible to participate but were required to have a tablet computer or smartphone. Patients used PROACT to upload audio/video messages that became available instantly to their clinical team, who were able to reply to the patient within PROACT. The patient's message was also analyzed, personally-identifiable information removed and anonymized information then made available to the sponsor in an analytics module for decision-making. In parallel, a patient focus group was engaged to provide feedback on communication needs during early clinical trials and the PROACT concept. Results: Of the 16 patients informed of PROACT, 8 had a smart device and consented to take part. Use of PROACT varied and all messages volunteered were relevant and informative for drug development. Topics disclosed included tolerability impacts, study design, and drug formulation. Alignment with the clinical study data provided a richer understanding of tolerability and treatment consequences. This information was available to be shared among the clinical team and the sponsor, to improve patient support and experience. Patient forum feedback endorsed the concept and provided further information to enhance the application. Conclusion: Overall, PROACT achieved proof of concept in this small pilot study and delivered a secure end-to-end system that protected patient privacy and provided preliminary insight into patient experiences beyond the usual clinical trial data set. The use of mobile devices to interact actively with participants in clinical trials may be a new way of engaging and empowering patients. Further validation of this technology in larger patient cohorts is ongoing. Funding: AstraZeneca.
    Full-text · Article · May 2016
    • "Although the knowledge of prevalence of fatigue, its course, and related factors in cancer survivors is extensive [1, 10, 17], the literature in patients with advanced cancer is scarce and prospective research in patients on active palliative cancer treatment is even more limited. With the new treatment options nowadays, the palliative phase for patients with advanced cancer can last for years [20, 27] and has been compared with a chronic illness [40]. When we are able to prolong patients' life for years in the palliative phase, attention towards the occurrence of fatigue in this disease trajectory is relevant. "
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Purpose: Fatigue is a frequently reported symptom by patients with advanced cancer, but hardly any prospective information is available about fatigue while on treatment in the palliative setting. In a previous cross-sectional study, we found several factors contributing to fatigue in these patients. In this study, we investigated the course of fatigue over time and if psychosocial factors were associated with fatigue over time. Methods: Patients on cancer treatment for incurable solid tumors were observed over 6 months. Patients filled in the Checklist Individual Strength monthly to measure the course of fatigue. Baseline questionnaires were used to measure disease acceptance, anxiety, depressive mood, fatigue catastrophizing, sleeping problems, discrepancies in social support, and self-reported physical activity for their relation with fatigue over time. Results: At baseline 137 patients and after 6 months 89 patients participated. The mean duration of participation was 4.9 months. At most time points, fatigue scores were significantly higher in the group dropouts in comparison with the group participating 6 months (completers). Overall fatigue levels remained stable over time for the majority of participants. In the completers, 42 % never experienced severe fatigue, 29 % persisted being severely fatigued, and others had either an increasing or decreasing level. Of the investigated factors, low reported physical activity and non-acceptance of cancer were associated significantly to fatigue. Conclusion: A substantial number of participants never experienced severe fatigue and fatigue levels remained stable over time. For those who do experience severe fatigue, non-acceptance of having incurable cancer and low self-reported physical activity may be fatigue-perpetuating factors.
    Full-text · Article · Sep 2015
    • "These " therapeutic misconceptions " or mistaken beliefs " that the research, like the treatments patients have received previously, is designed and will be executed in a manner of direct benefit to them " [6] call into question the validity of the patient's consent and spur criticism of health care professionals' (HCPs) communication skills. Another interpretation is that these patients are in fact " therapeutic optimists, " continuing to hope for the possibility of benefit despite being aware of their prognosis and recognizing the experimental nature of the trial [7]. Irrespective of the predisposition toward optimism that patients and relatives might have about putative therapeutic benefits, improving communication about phase I trial recruitment is critical to ensuring that prospective participants make informed decisions. "
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Discussing early-phase cancer trials is challenging; most offer little personal benefit to patients with life-limiting illnesses who frequently have a poor understanding of and misconceptions about the therapeutic aims. We evaluated an evidence-based training program aimed at enhancing communication. Prior to and after the intervention, 47 health care professionals (HCPs) experienced in early-phase trial recruitment were audio taped discussing trials with patient simulators who completed postinterview evaluations. Coders rated the interviews for the presence of information areas required to elicit ethical consent. HCPs reported their self-confidence on 15 different aspects of trial discussion. Significant objective and subjective improvements in communication were found after the workshop. Analyses of audio tapes showed positive shifts in: establishing the patient's knowledge of their prognosis (odds ratio [OR], 2.7; p = .002), discussing symptomatic care (OR, 3.8; p < .001), the aims of the trial (OR, 2.6; p =.002), and the unlikelihood of medical benefit (OR, 3.0; p = .021). Patient simulator ratings showed improvements in: the awareness of palliative care and symptom control (OR, 2.1; p = .004), the voluntariness of participation (OR, 3.7; p = .015), the opportunity to ask questions (OR, 2.9; p = .044), and the time to consider participation (OR, 6.1; p = .009). HCPs' self-confidence increased significantly for all 15 items (OR range, 1.5-2.9; p ≤ .001). This short, intensive workshop changed communication skills competency and self-efficacy in ways likely to promote valid, ethically informed consent from patients contemplating trial entry.
    Full-text · Article · Mar 2012
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