Many patients undergoing trials of new cancer treatments do not realise that future patients are more likely to benefit than themselves.
There can be no progress in treating cancer - or any other disease - unless there are clinical trials. Henceforth what do patients expect from a trial. Doctors in California gathered views from more than 200 patients involved in trials of new cancer treatments. They learned that only 60 per cent realised they might not get any direct benefit from the trial, even though the information given prior to consent should have made this clear. And less than 40 per cent realised that they might experience some side effects from an experimental treatment.
But virtually all were happy with the informed consent process. Greater knowledge and understanding of what the cancer trial was all about was linked to having a college education, speaking only English at home, and having a nurse present during the consent discussion. It was also useful to have received the National Cancer Institute simplified consent form.
Some doctors were also unaware that it is future patients who benefit more from a clinical trial. This misunderstanding could be communicated to patients. According to the researchers, doctors have a conflict of interest they want the best for their current patients, but they also have the interests of future patients at heart.