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Keywords:

  • informed consent;
  • physician–patient communication;
  • Phase I clinical trials

Abstract

Purpose: Phase I clinical trials are the gateway to effective new cancer treatments. Many physicians have difficulty when discussing Phase I clinical trials. Research demonstrates evidence of suboptimal communication. Little is known about communication strategies used by oncologists when recruiting patients for Phase I trials. We analyzed audio recorded Phase I consultations to identify oncologists' communication strategies.

Patients and Methods: Subjects were consecutive cancer patients from six medical oncologists attending one of three outpatient clinics at a major Cancer Center in the United States. Sixteen patients signed informed consent for audio recording of their consultations in which a Phase I study was discussed. These were transcribed in full and analyzed to identify communication strategies.

Results: Six communication themes emerged from the analysis: (1) orienting, (2) educating patients, (3) describing uncertainty and prognosis, (4) persuading, (5) decision making, and (6) making a treatment recommendation. As expected, although there was some common ground between communication in Phase I and the Phase II and III settings, there were distinct differences.

Conclusions: Oncologists used persuasive communication, made explicit recommendations, or implicitly expressed a treatment preference and were choice limiting. This highlights the complexity of discussing Phase I trials and the need to develop strategies to aid oncologists and patients in these difficult conversations. Patient centered communication that values patient preferences while preserving the oncologist's agenda can be a helpful approach to these discussions. Copyright © 2010 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.