Older adult participation in cancer clinical trials: A systematic review of barriers and interventions

the Cancer and Aging Research Group (CARG)

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

232 Scopus citations


Cancer is a disease of aging and, as the world's population ages, the number of older persons with cancer is increasing and will make up a growing share of the oncology population in virtually every country. Despite this, older patients remain vastly underrepresented in research that sets the standards for cancer treatments. Consequently, most of what we know about cancer therapeutics is based on clinical trials conducted in younger, healthier patients, and effective strategies to improve clinical trial participation of older adults with cancer remain sparse. For this systematic review, the authors evaluated published studies regarding barriers to participation and interventions to improve participation of older adults in cancer trials. The quality of the available evidence was low and, despite a literature describing multifaceted barriers, only one intervention study aimed to increase enrollment of older adults in trials. The findings starkly amplify the paucity of evidence-based, effective strategies to improve participation of this underrepresented population in cancer trials. Within these limitations, the authors provide their opinion on how the current cancer research infrastructure must be modified to accommodate the needs of older patients. Several underused solutions are offered to expand clinical trials to include older adults with cancer. However, as currently constructed, these recommendations alone will not solve the evidence gap in geriatric oncology, and efforts are needed to meet older and frail adults where they are by expanding clinical trials designed specifically for this population and leveraging real-world data.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)78-92
Number of pages15
JournalCA Cancer Journal for Clinicians
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2021


  • clinical trials
  • older adults
  • oncology
  • patient participation
  • patient selection
  • practice patterns


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