Research on Clinical Trial Participation Presented at Science and Health Communications Research Group Meeting (SHCRG)
USC doctoral students Caroline D. Bergeron, of the Department of Health Promotion, Education, and Behavior (HPEB), and Caroline Foster, of the School of Journalism and Mass Communications (SJMC), along with Dr. Andrea H. Tanner (SJMC) presented their research focusing on knowledge, perceptions and communication needs about clinical trials in South Carolina. The research is part of a three-year project funded by Health Sciences South Carolina. Dr. Sei-Hill Kim (SJMC) serves as the Principal Investigator for this research project while Dr. Daniela B. Friedman (HPEB) and Dr. Andrea H. Tanner are the Co-Principal Investigators.
In phase one of their research, clinical trial investigators at South Carolina’s main academic medical centers were surveyed about the types of clinical trials they are conducting and their perceptions of the barriers to recruiting patients into their studies.
“We found that clinical trial investigators think that local physicians are unaware of ongoing clinical trials, which makes it very hard for them to recommend this type of care to their patients,” said Foster (SJMC).
“It’s interesting that South Carolina clinical trial investigators said that lack of awareness and lack of communication with doctors and patients were the biggest barriers to finding individuals to participate in clinical trials,” said Tanner. “As health communication researchers, it is our job to develop strategies for communicating with local doctors and the general public about important clinical trial research taking place in our state.”
The research team also conducted 26 focus groups with members of the general public around the state to find out what people know about clinical trials and what are possible barriers and motivations to clinical trial participation. They sorted their findings by gender, race and rural versus urban areas of the state. The team found that the biggest barriers to participation are general unawareness of available clinical trials and patients’ fear of pain, side effects and the unknown.
“In terms of psychological barriers to clinical trial participation, fear was the most important barrier among all 26 focus groups,” said Bergeron (HPEB). “There are a lot of horror stories out there on side effects of clinical trial drugs, and unfortunately these stories negatively impact clinical trial participation.”
The preliminary results of this research suggest the importance of providing education on clinical trials, including on the different types of clinical trials available (i.e., prevention, screening, diagnosis, treatment and quality of life). More community outreach and communication is also needed to get the word out, particularly to African American and rural populations of South Carolina.
The research team will continue its investigation on knowledge, perceptions and communication needs about clinical trials through a statewide telephone survey to be conducted in December 2012.