Lack of Seniors in Clinical Trials

Posted on Friday, June 30, 2017 2:32 PM

The FDA found that only 25% of patients participating in cancer clinical trials were 65+, which is concerning since 60% of cancer patients are older adults. With a lack of participation, it’s difficult to assess how treatments are likely to affect seniors. The analysis from the FDA has not been published, but was presented at the American Society of Clinical Oncology’s annual meeting in June.

Per the FDA’s data:

  • 19% of breast cancer patients are 75+, yet only 4% of breast cancer clinical trial participants are of this age.
  • 33% of colon cancer patients are in the 75+, yet a mere 8% of patients studied by researchers fell in that age group.
  • 37% of lung cancer patients are 75+, yet only 9% of people of that age are represented in lung cancer clinical trials.

It’s not just cancer, as many studies show a low participation level of patients 65+. Researchers found it more difficult to include seniors for several reasons including multiple illnesses, current medications, and mobility.

Since these trials greatly affect seniors, it’s encouraged they participate whether by asking their physician or finding trials on their own. Patients can do this by visiting sites like, which is a database of studies across the world, searchable by disease and geography. There is also Trials Today and ResearchMatch where patients can sign up and be matched with clinical trial sponsors. Lastly, TrialMatch is a one-stop-shop for clinical trials for people with Alzheimer’s disease, caregivers, and people interested in preventing dementia, currently listing nearly more than 250 scientific studies.

For more information, click here.

Kaiser Health News, a nonprofit health newsroom whose stories appear in news outlets nationwide, is an editorially independent part of the Kaiser Family Foundation. Original written by Judith Graham.

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