Deciding to enrol in a cancer trial: A systematic review of qualitative studies

Thumbnail Image
File version

Version of Record (VoR)

Viljoen, B
Chambers, SK
Dunn, J
Ralph, N
March, S
Griffith University Author(s)
Primary Supervisor
Other Supervisors
File type(s)

Background: Clinical trials are essential for the advancement of cancer treatments; how-ever, participation by patients is suboptimal. Currently, there is a lack of synthesized qualitative review evidence on the patient experience of trial entry from which to further develop decision support. The aim of this review is to synthesise literature reporting experiences of participants when deciding to enrol in a cancer clinical trial in order to inform practice. Methods: A systematic review and meta-synthesis of qualitative studies were conducted to describe the experiences of adult cancer patients who decided to enrol in a clinical trial of an anti-cancer treatment. Results: Forty studies met eligibility criteria for inclusion. Three themes were identified representing the overarching domains of experience when deciding to enrol in a cancer trial: 1) need for trial information; (2) trepidation towards participation; and (3) justifying the decision. The process of deciding to enrol in a clinical trial is one marked by uncertainty, emotional distress and driven by the search for a cure. Conclusion: Findings from this review show that decision support modelled by shared decision-making and the quality of a shared decision needs to be accompanied by tailored or personalised psychosocial and supportive care. Although the decision process bears simila-rities to theoretical processes outlined in decision-making frameworks, there are a lack of supportive interventions for cancer patients that are adapted to the clinical trial context. Theory-based interventions are urgently required to support the specific needs of patients deciding whether to participate in cancer trials.

Journal Title

Journal of Multidisciplinary Healthcare

Conference Title
Book Title


Thesis Type
Degree Program
Publisher link
Patent number
Grant identifier(s)
Rights Statement
Rights Statement

© 2020 Viljoen et al. This work is published and licensed by Dove Medical Press Limited. The full terms of this license are available at php and incorporate the Creative Commons Attribution – Non Commercial (unported, v3.0) License. By accessing the work you hereby accept the Terms. Non-commercial uses of the work are permitted without any further permission from Dove Medical Press Limited, provided the work is properly attributed.

Item Access Status
Access the data
Related item(s)

Biomedical and clinical sciences

Clinical sciences

Health sciences

Persistent link to this record

Viljoen, B; Chambers, SK; Dunn, J; Ralph, N; March, S, Deciding to enrol in a cancer trial: A systematic review of qualitative studies, Journal of Multidisciplinary Healthcare, 2020, 13, pp. 1257-1281