BACKGROUND: The under-representation of older patients in cancer trials remains an important obstacle to the generation of data on efficacy and safety in this growing patient population. In France, geriatric oncology coordination units (UCOGs) have been created to help oncologists and geriatricians work together on research, best practice, and continuing medical education. Taking these units as a case study, this paper sheds light on the collaboration between geriatricians and oncologists in the inclusion process of older patients in cancer trials.
MATERIALS AND METHODS: Empirical data were gathered in a series of sociological interviews with all 16 oncologists, geriatricians and unit coordinators in the five UCOGs in the greater Paris region of France.
RESULTS: The case of French geriatric oncology coordination units shows the gap between professional research cultures in oncology and geriatrics that may account for the low observed inclusion rates. It is easier to include patients in randomized clinical trials than in observational studies. UCOGs have the potential to improve research in geriatric oncology by catalyzing the development and implementation of effective collaboration tools (such as frailty assessments). The units also have the potential to promote Phase IV trials and observational research that are suitable for older patients with cancer.
DISCUSSION: Bridging the cultural gap between oncologists (the dominant force in setting the cancer research agenda) and geriatricians (a source of specific knowledge and know-how) is essential for producing relevant trial protocols that match the specific yet diverse features of older patient populations.