Supportive Care in Cancer

, Volume 27, Issue 2, pp 467–475 | Cite as

Health professional perceptions of communicating with adolescents and young adults about bone cancer clinical trial participation

  • Verna LavenderEmail author
  • Faith Gibson
  • Alexandra Brownsdon
  • Lorna Fern
  • Jeremy Whelan
  • Susie Pearce
Original Article



Low recruitment of adolescents and young adults in cancer clinical trials is widely reported and may be linked to limited improvements in survival. Research to date does not adequately explain all underlying reasons for poor trial accrual. This paper reports health professional perceptions of communicating with adolescents and young adults with bone sarcoma about clinical trial participation.


This study used narrative inquiry. Findings are reported from thematic analysis of in-depth interviews with 18 multidisciplinary health professionals working in a supra-regional bone and soft tissue sarcoma centre.


Participants described professional expertise, the development of specialist knowledge and skills and strategies used to develop trusting relationships with adolescents and young adults with bone sarcoma. These factors were perceived to facilitate communication about clinical trial participation. Emergent themes were having credibility through expertise of the team, developing specialist communication skills through reflection on practice, having inclusive approaches to education and training about clinical trials, individual communication styles used to form trusting relationships, using a patient-centred approach to connect with adolescents and young adults, creating time needed to form trusting relationships and effective team working.


We aligned findings of this study with characteristics of patient-physician trust and provide a basis for transferable recommendations. Our findings can be used to inform the development of age-specific, specialist communication skills and highlight health professional education needs about clinical trials. Additional research is needed to explore which elements of team working optimise improved clinical trial participation, in what contexts and why.


Adolescents Young adults Cancer Narrative inquiry Clinical trials Patient-professional communication 



We thank all healthcare professionals who gave up their time to participate in this study. Thanks also to Professor Helen Dawes, Oxford Brookes University, for reviewing early drafts of this manuscript.

Funding information

We thank the Bone Cancer Research Trust for funding this study (Grant Number BCRT 21/10) and the National Institute for Health Research, Teenage Cancer Trust and Oxford Brookes University for financially supporting the authors of this study.

Compliance with ethical standards

We e-mailed invitations with participant information packs to health professionals inviting them to participate in an interview and followed the e-mail with a telephone invitation. We obtained written and informed consent from potential participants. We assured anonymity and confidentiality, and participants were informed they could withdraw from the study at any time without giving a reason.

Statement of confidentiality

We confirm all personal identifiers have been removed or disguised, so the persons described are not identifiable and cannot be identified through the details of the story.

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Nursing, Faculty of Health and Life SciencesOxford Brookes UniversityOxfordUK
  2. 2.Centre for Outcomes and Experiences Research in Children’s Health, Illness, and DisabilityGreat Ormond Street Hospital for Children NHS Foundation TrustLondonUK
  3. 3.School of Health Sciences, Faculty of Health and Medical SciencesUniversity of SurreyGuildfordUK
  4. 4.Cancer DivisionUniversity College London Hospital NHS Foundation TrustLondonUK
  5. 5.School of Nursing and Midwifery, Faculty of Health SciencesPlymouth UniversityPlymouthUK

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