Trials of surgical procedures in the treatment of malignant disease face a unique set of challenges. This review aimed to describe recommendations for the design, delivery and reporting of randomised trials in surgical oncology. A literature search was carried out without date limits to identify articles related to trial methodology research in surgery and surgical oncology. A narrative review was framed around two open National Institute of Health Research portfolio trials in colon and rectal cancer: the STAR-TREC trial (ISRCTN14240288) and the ROCCS trial (ISRCTN46330337). Twelve specific challenges were highlighted: standardisation of technique; pilot and feasibility studies; balancing treatments; the recruitment pathway; outcome measures; patient and public representation; trainee-led networks; randomisation; novel techniques and training; learning curves; blinding; follow-up. Evidence-based recommendations were made for the future design and conduct of surgical oncology trials. Better understanding of the challenges facing trials in the surgical treatment of cancer will accelerate high-quality evaluation and rapid adoption of innovation for the benefit of patient care.
- Colorectal cancer
- patient and public representation
- research methodology
- randomised trials