A study looking at doctors' and patients' attitudes towards clinical trials

Cancer type:

All cancer types





This study looked at what patients and doctors think about phase 3 randomised clinical trials. This trial was supported by Cancer Research UK.

All new treatments and procedures have to be thoroughly tested in clinical trials before they can become part of standard treatment.

The number of people taking part in phase 3 clinical trials has gone up in recent years, but not everyone suitable to enter a clinical trial takes part.

In this study, the researchers wanted to find out more about what people think of cancer clinical trials, and how doctors talk to them about taking part in a phase 3 trial.

The aims of this study were to find ways of helping doctors and nurses to talk about clinical trials, and so increase the number of people who decide to take part.

Summary of results

The team running this study are looking at the results from several different angles. So far they have looked at

  • What patients think about taking part in clinical trials
  • What doctors’ attitudes are towards medical research and  clinical trials

The study team asked 1,146 patients to complete a questionnaire. It asked them what they thought about clinical trials and how likely they were to take part. 1,066 people completed the questionnaire - 654 women and 412 men. The questions related to taking part in phase 3 randomised trials, rather than early stage phase 1 or 2 trials.

The results showed that

  • 91% thought people should be asked if they wanted to take part in a trial
  • 73% would be prepared to take part in a trial comparing different treatments
  • 55% would be prepared to take part in a trial where the treatment was chosen at random
  • When the trial was explained in more detail, 83% would be prepared to take part in a trial where the treatment was chosen at random

Further explanation included the possible side effects of each treatment, reassurance that either treatment would be suitable, and the fact that they could leave trial at any time if they wanted to.

The research team found that people who had been part of a trial before, men and those under 70 were more likely to agree to take part in a randomised trial.

The research team concluded that a high percentage of people would be willing to take part in a phase 3 trial if they were provided with all the options.

The study team also asked 111 senior doctors to complete a questionnaire. It asked them what they thought about medical research and clinical trials. 87 doctors completed the questionnaire - 47 surgeons and 40 non surgical doctors (physicians, who were mainly cancer specialists). They all worked as part of a multi disciplinary team (MDT) Open a glossary item at either a District General Hospital (DGH) or a specialist cancer centre.

The results showed that

  • Physicians were more involved with research than surgeons
  • Physicians were more likely to attend research based conferences than surgeons
  • More physicians thought it was important to prolong life than to improve quality of life, compared to surgeons
  • Doctors working at specialist centres were more likely to be involved in research than those at a DGH
  • Doctors at specialist centres thought doctor’s attitudes, rather than patient’s attitudes, were lowering levels of recruitment into clinical trials
  • Doctors working at a DGH were more reluctant to recruit patients into a trial where one of the trial groups had no treatment
  • More doctors at specialist centres felt it was important to be well known among national and international colleagues

All this information gives a better understanding of what doctors think about clinical trials. The research team are using this information to help develop training programs for doctors. They hope that this will in turn increase recruitment onto clinical trials.

We have based this summary on information from the team who ran the trial. The information they sent us has been reviewed by independent specialists (peer reviewed Open a glossary item) and published in a medical journal. The figures we quote above were provided by the trial team. We have not analysed the data ourselves.

Recruitment start:

Recruitment end:

How to join a clinical trial

Please note: In order to join a trial you will need to discuss it with your doctor, unless otherwise specified.

Please note - unless we state otherwise in the summary, you need to talk to your doctor about joining a trial.

Chief Investigator

Dr Valerie Jenkins
Professor Lesley Fallowfield

Supported by

Cancer Research UK
National Institute for Health Research Cancer Research Network (NCRN)

Other information

This is Cancer Research UK trial number CRUK/06/051. 

Questions about cancer? Contact our information nurses

Freephone 0808 800 4040

Last review date

CRUK internal database number:

Oracle 2137

Please note - unless we state otherwise in the summary, you need to talk to your doctor about joining a trial.

Cara took part in a clinical trial

A picture of Cara

"I am glad that taking part in a trial might help others on their own cancer journey.”

Last reviewed:

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