A recent survey of patients with cancer indicated that the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic may be impacting patients’ willingness to participate in cancer clinical trials. The survey results were published in a research letter in JAMA Oncology.

Survey participants were part of the American Cancer Society (ACS) Cancer Action Network’s Survivor Views panel, and they had received diagnoses of and/or treatment for cancer within the 5 years prior to the study. Survey questions related to attitudes around participation in clinical trials and in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.

A total of 3054 participants were given surveys, and 933 (30.6%) responded. Approximately one-third (33.9%) of respondents had previously spoken with their physicians regarding clinical trials, and 20.6% of respondents had been offered participation in trials. The majority (78.1%) of those who had been offered trial participation had reportedly agreed to participate; ultimately, the clinical trial participation rate was 12.4% among respondents. Of respondents who had not been offered trial participation, 78.4% expressed a likelihood to enroll if given the opportunity.

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When asked about the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on willingness to participate in a trial, 79.5% of 907 respondents suggested it made no difference. However, the other respondents were more than 7 times more likely to suggest the pandemic reduced their likelihood to participate in a trial. These response trends were generally consistent across a variety of patient groups, including among those who had previously agreed to participate in clinical trials.

Respondents who were less likely to participate in a trial during the pandemic expressed concerns primarily in regard to increased risk of COVID-19 exposure (70.1%) and possible difficulty in accessing care in the setting of the pandemic (18.3%).

“Despite a strong predisposition to participate in clinical research, nearly one-fifth of patients with cancer reported that they would be less likely to participate in a trial because of fears surrounding COVID-19,” explained the researchers who conducted the survey.


Fleury ME, Farner AM, Unger JM. Association of the COVID-19 outbreak with patient willingness to enroll in cancer clinical trials. JAMA Oncol. 2021;7(1):131-132. doi:10.1001/jamaoncol.2020.5748