Experiences of Patients After Withdrawal From Cancer Clinical Trials. Journal Article

Authors: Ulrich, CM; Knafl, K; Foxwell, AM; Zhou, Q; Paidipati, C; Tiller, D; Ratcliffe, SJ; Wallen, GR; Richmond, TS; Naylor, M; Gordon, TF; Grady, C; Miller, V
Article Title: Experiences of Patients After Withdrawal From Cancer Clinical Trials.
Abstract: Importance: Cancer clinical trials (CCTs) provide patients an opportunity to receive experimental drugs, tests, and/or procedures that can lead to remission. For some, a CCT may seem like their only option. Little is known about experiences of patient-participants who withdraw or are withdrawn from CCTs. Objective: To examine patient-participants' experiences during withdrawal from CCTs. Design, Setting, and Participants: This qualitative, descriptive study used a semistructured interview designed specifically for it, with open-ended and probing questions. The study took place at a National Cancer Institute-designated comprehensive cancer center affiliated with the University of Pennsylvania. The need for a sample of 20 interviewees was determined by code and meaning saturation (ie, no new themes revealed and identified themes fully elaborated). Interviews were transcribed verbatim and analyzed with a qualitative software program. Data coded with the software were refined into categories reflecting broad themes. A criterion-based sampling approach was used to select a subset of adult patients with cancer who were former CCT participants and who agreed on exit from those CCTs to a later interview about withdrawal experiences. They were contacted one by one by telephone from September 2015 through June 2019 until 20 agreed. Data analysis was completed in October 2020. Main Outcomes and Measures: Themes characterizing patient-participants' perceptions of their withdrawal experiences. Results: Respondents' mean (SD) age was 64.42 (8.49) years; 12 (63.2%) were men. Most respondents were White (18 respondents [94.7%]) and college educated (11 respondents [55.0%]). Cancer stage data were available for 17 participants, 11 of whom (64.7%) had stage IV cancer at CCT enrollment. Thirteen respondents reported withdrawal as a result of disease progression, and 5 withdrew because of adverse effects. Other reasons for withdrawal included acute illness and participant uncertainty about the reason. Analysis of interview data yielded 5 themes: posttrial prognostic awareness, goals of care discussions, emotional coping, burden of adverse effects, and professional trust and support. Subthemes included regrets or hindsight, urgency to start next treatment, and weighing benefits and burdens of treatment. Limited discussions about patient-participants' immediate posttrial care needs left many feeling that there was no clear path forward. Conclusions and Relevance: Patient-participants transitioning from a CCT described feeling intense symptoms and emotions and awareness that their life span was short and options seemed to be limited. Communication that includes attention to posttrial needs is needed throughout the CCT to help patient-participants navigate posttrial steps. Research should focus on components of responsible and ethical CCT transitions, including types and timing of discussions and who should begin these discussions with patient-participants and their families.
Journal Title: JAMA network open
Publisher: Unknown  
Date Published: 2021