(HealthDay News) – Patients of lower socioeconomic status are less likely to be referred to participate in early–phase cancer trials compared with patients of higher socioeconomic status, according to research published online Dec. 3 in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

Aisyah Mohd Noor, MD, of King’s College London, and colleagues used data from 10,784 incident cases to examine the effect of patient socioeconomic status on access to early–phase cancer trials.

The researchers found that 430 patients were referred to an early–phase oncology trials unit. Patients in the more–deprived quintiles were significantly less likely to be referred compared with patients in the less–deprived quintiles (odds ratio, 0.53). After review in the unit, trial enrollment was not affected by socioeconomic status. Non–white patients were significantly less likely to be recruited (odds ratio, 0.48), but after adjustment for age, gender, cancer type, and deprivation index, the association did not persist.

“The least–deprived patients are almost twice as likely to be referred compared with the most deprived,” the authors write. “This may be because more–deprived patients are less suitable for a trial – as a result of comorbidities, for example – or because of inequalities that could be addressed by patient or referrer education. Once reviewed at the unit, enrollment onto a trial is not affected by deprivation.”

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