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Gastrointestinal malignancies and supportive care trials: a snapshot of the last two decades


Background Patients with gastrointestinal (GI) cancers experience a high symptom burden due to the effects of both cancer and treatment. As such, trials assessing symptom burden and supportive interventions are crucial. Here, we characterise the landscape of phase III GI cancer clinical trials and explore study outcomes centred on the patient’s quality of life (QoL).

Methods We searched for phase III randomised controlled trials (RCTs) registered between 2000 and 2017 that are assessing a therapeutic intervention in adult patients with cancer and grouped trials by GI disease sites.

Results Overall, we identified 76 phase III trials specific to GI cancers that enrolled a total of 53 725 patients. When analysing the primary outcomes measured, the vast majority of studies (n=71, 86%) measured disease-related endpoints such as progression-free survival or overall survival. All trials had a secondary endpoint that measured adverse events, but only 30 trials (39%) included QoL measures as secondary endpoints. Of the 30 trials that included QoL secondary endpoints, only 16 (53%) reported these results. Only five trials (7%) assessed interventions aimed at supportive measures impacting disease-related or treatment-related toxicity. None of the supportive trials included QoL as a primary endpoint and only two of these trials (40%) included QoL as a secondary endpoint.

Conclusions Most GI cancer trials failed to incorporate patient-centred outcomes or QoL measures when studying new interventions. These findings call for greater integration of patient-reported metrics, which may lead to better care and outcomes for patients with GI malignancies.

  • gastrointestinal (upper)
  • gastrointestinal (lower)
  • pancreatic
  • supportive care
  • quality of life
  • symptoms and symptom management

Data availability statement

Data are available upon request

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