Benefits of participating in oncology clinical trials are much greater than previously recognized. Researchers at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center in Seattle, Washington, examined the effect of treatment trials on survival of patients with cancer in the US population. They found that there are measurable benefits in terms of costs and extended survival.

For this investigation, the researchers examined how the National Cancer Institute (NCI)-sponsored network cooperative cancer research groups benefited patients with cancer in the general population.  Joseph M. Unger, PhD, MS, and colleagues examined data from 23 positive SWOG treatment trials conducted between 1965 and 2012.  All the calculations were adjusted for age. The US dollar return on investment was estimated as the ratio of the total investment by the NCI in the treatment trial program divided by the estimate of life-years gained.

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Estimates of more than 3.34 million life-years were gained through 2015 from the 23 trials. In addition, the return on investment was approximately $125 USD per life-year gained. The researchers concluded that the NCI’s investment in its cancer cooperative group research program has provided exceptional value and benefit to the American public. 


1. Unger JM, LeBlanc M, Blanke CD, et al.  The effect of positive SWOG treatment trials on survival of patients with cancer in the US population [published online June 5, 2017].

JAMA Oncol. doi: 10.1001/jamaoncol.2017.0762