Pancreatic cancer patients who participate in clinical research have better outcomes. Every treatment available today was approved through a clinical trial. The Pancreatic Cancer Action Network (PanCAN) strongly recommends clinical trials at diagnosis and during every treatment decision.

However, the rate of enrollment in cancer clinical trials remains too low. A new report released today by the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network (ACS CAN) provides a deep analysis of clinical trial participation and identifies barriers to enrollment.

The report outlines various types of obstacles, including provider and institutional barriers, patient barriers and trial-design barriers.

Cassadie Moravek, right, with Meaghan Slater, PanCAN’s associate director of advocacy, at the National Forum on the Future of Health Care meeting.

“We commend ACS CAN and their partners for undertaking this important study and for providing recommendations to overcome some of the most common and pervasive barriers to cancer clinical trial enrollment,” said Cassadie Moravek, associate director of clinical initiatives at PanCAN, who was in attendance at the National Forum on the Future of Health Care meeting in Washington, D.C., where the report was released.

In regard to providers, the report outlines the challenge that doctors may not mention or consider clinical trials for their patients. This is among the reasons that PanCAN strongly recommends that pancreatic cancer patients consult with specialists who have experience diagnosing and treating the disease, and who are more likely to discuss clinical trials with their patients.

Among the barriers related to the patients themselves, lack of awareness about trials and their safety was highlighted. Pancreatic cancer patients and their caregivers can learn more about clinical trials and receive a personalized list of options that align with their diagnosis, treatment history and geographical location from PanCAN’s PanCAN Patient Services team. Also, patients, caregivers and healthcare providers can directly search for trials through the organization’s Clinical Trial Finder, providing access to the most comprehensive database of pancreatic cancer-specific trials across the United States.

PanCAN’s Clinical Trial Finder also addresses one of the issues identified by the ACS CAN team in their report by providing patients information about all geographically relevant trials, rather than limiting to a particular institution or site.

Additionally, the design of trials may restrict patient participation, and conversations are underway to determine whether loosening some of the eligibility criteria may provide more patients access to potentially effective treatments through clinical trials.

Some of those eligibility criteria may especially prevent enrollment by certain racial minorities and individuals with lower socioeconomic status, the report says. Ensuring diversity in clinical trials is critical to develop treatment options that apply to the broader population and to allow deeper analysis of whether certain treatments may be especially beneficial (or result in different side effects) within a particular group.

“It is important for us to continue to monitor trends and issues within the pancreatic cancer clinical trial landscape, as well as keep a close eye on the larger cancer clinical trial space,” Moravek said. “Resources like PanCAN’s Clinical Trial Finder, and our Know Your Tumor® precision medicine service that can align patients with clinical trials specific for their tumor’s molecular characteristics, will allow us to improve clinical trial enrollment and help ensure that patients are aware of all their treatment options.”

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