Epic: an evaluation of the psychological impact of early-phase clinical trials in cancer patients

P Jittla, D M Graham, C Zhou, J Halliwell, S O'Reilly, S Aruketty, A Azizi, T Germetaki, J Lowe, M Little, G Punnett, P McMahon, L Benson, L Carter, M G Krebs, F C Thistlethwaite, E Darlington, J Yorke, N Cook

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


BACKGROUND: Anxiety and depression in patients with cancer is associated with decreased quality of life and increased morbidity and mortality. However, these are often overlooked and untreated. Early-phase clinical trials (EPCTs) recruit patients with advanced cancers who frequently lack future treatment options, which may lead to increased anxiety and depression. Despite this, EPCTs do not routinely consider psychological screening for patients.

PATIENTS AND METHODS: This prospective observational study explored levels of anxiety and depression alongside impact of trial participation in the context of EPCTs. The Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale and the Brief Illness Perceptions Questionnaire were completed at the point of EPCT consent, the end of screening and at pre-specified time points thereafter.

RESULTS: Sixty-four patients (median age 56 years; median Eastern Cooperative Oncology Group performance status 1) were recruited. At consent, 57 patients returned questionnaires; 39% reported clinically relevant levels of anxiety whilst 18% reported clinically relevant levels of depression. Sixty-three percent of patients experiencing psychological distress had never previously reported this. Males were more likely to be depressed (P = 0.037) and females were more likely to be anxious (P = 0.011). Changes in anxiety or depression were observed after trial enrolment on an individual level, but not significant on a population level.

CONCLUSIONS: Patients on EPCTs are at an increased risk of anxiety and depression but may not seek relevant support. Sites offering EPCTs should consider including psychological screening to encourage a more holistic approach to cancer care and consider the sex of individuals when tailoring psychological support to meet specific needs.

Original languageEnglish
Article number100550
JournalESMO Open
Issue number5
Early online date19 Aug 2022
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2022


  • Male
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Depression/etiology
  • Quality of Life
  • Anxiety/etiology
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Neoplasms/therapy

Research Beacons, Institutes and Platforms

  • Manchester Cancer Research Centre


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