A recent study led by a researcher from UT Southwestern revealed a fairly new obstacle in oncological research and development, especially when it comes to recruiting participants for lung cancer clinical trials. According to the study, now published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, there has been an increase in the number of lung cancer patients excluded from these trials because of a history of surviving a different type of cancer in the past.
Dr. David Gerber, the study’s lead investigator and Associate Professor of Internal Medicine’s division of Hematology and Oncology, explained that out of over 50 examined clinical trials on lung cancer conducted by the Eastern Cooperative Oncology Group (ECOG), more than 80% left out willing participants who are cancer survivors. Apparently, surviving a prior diagnosis of cancer is the only stringent criteria for ineligibility for most of these clinical trials, despite Dr. Gerber’s stand that it would not necessarily affect the current case of lung cancer.
Dr. Gerber, who is also a co-leader of the Experimental Therapeutics Program and co-director of the Lung Disease Oriented Team at the Harold C. Simmons Cancer Center at UT Southwestern, said that the number of patients excluded based on this criteria alone was found to be significant. For every trial, an average of 18% of potential participants were cut, which equates to as many as 207 excluded patients.
This is a concerning trend, especially with today’s cutting edge cancer treatments that give people a greater chance at survival. Today, there are over 13 million cancer survivors, which is expected to increase four-fold in the next 3 decades. Dr. Gerber believes the necessity of this criterion should be reevaluated as recruiting participants for clinical trials is difficult as it is, and this criterion’s removal could result in larger sample sizes and a more rapid completion of studies. Across the country, less than 2% of adult patients become eligible for clinical trials. Many do not participate due to inaccessibility and lack of interest.
Several institutions have shown support for this study, including: a National Cancer Institute Clinical Investigator Team Leadership Award, and grants by the American Cancer Society, Harold C. Simmons Cancer Center, the Cancer Prevention Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT), and the UT Southwestern Center for Patient-Centered Outcomes Research.
Sometimes, receiving radiation therapy for a prior cancer can lead to the development of a second cancer in another area of the body. A study conducted in the Aarhus University Hospital in Denmark examined incidences of second lung cancer among breast cancer patients who underwent radiation therapy, in order to determine the effects of radiation to the lung and the risk of second primary lung cancer.