Importance: Quality of life (QoL) is an important consideration in cancer medicine, especially because drugs are becoming more costly and may only result in modest gains in overall survival. However, there has been no descriptive analysis for the points at which QoL is measured in cancer trials. Objective: To estimate the prevalence of studies that measure QoL at different points and see how many studies measure QoL for the entirety of a patient's life. Design, Setting, and Participants: This cross-sectional analysis includes all articles on oncology clinical trials in the 3 highest-impact oncology journals, published between July 2015 and June 2018, that reported QoL outcomes. Main Outcomes and Measures: Data were abstracted on when QoL was assessed and the characteristics of these studies. Results: For all 149 studies that met inclusion criteria, QoL assessment was high during treatment (104 articles [69.8%]), during follow-up (81 articles [54.4%]), and after the end of the intervention (68 articles [45.6%]). In 5 of the 149 studies (3.4%), QoL was assessed until death, including in only 1 of the 74 studies on metastatic or incurable cancers. Among these 5 studies, only 1 (20%) used a drug intervention, 1 (20%) used a behavioral intervention, and 2 (40%) used a radiation intervention; only 1 of 5 was in the metastatic setting. The number of studies that reported a positive QoL outcome (ie, QoL outcome was more favorable in the intervention group than in the control group) was between 42 of 81 articles (51.9%) and 16 of 28 articles (57.1%) for most QoL assessment points but only 1 of 5 articles (20%) for studies measuring QoL until death. Conclusions and Relevance: This study found that most clinical trials assessed QoL during the treatment or intervention and often during a given amount of follow-up but infrequently assessed QoL on disease progression and rarely followed QoL until the end of the patient's life. Most studies reporting QoL until the end of life reported worse QoL outcomes for the intervention group than the control group. Future research and policy recommendations should consider not just short-term QoL outcomes but QoL outcomes throughout the patient's cancer care.
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