Why Should I Consider a Clinical Trial?
A clinical trial is a medical research study that tests new ways to prevent, screen, diagnose, or treat a disease. The first step is to speak with your oncologist to find out if a clinical trial is right for your cancer journey. The National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN), an alliance of 21 leading cancer centers, believes that “the best management for any patient with cancer is in a clinical trial.”
Why should I consider a clinical trial?
Here are the top reasons why you should consider a clinical trial:
The "standard of care" is what the medical community agrees is the treatment for a specific type of cancer given the patient's overall health. Clinical trials ALWAYS provide treatment that is the standard of care or better. For example, in a randomized Phase III trial for a promising new chemotherapy drug, some patients would get the treatment under study while others get the standard of care. Or some patients would get the current standard of care plus the treatment under study while others get just the current standard of care.
Many of the newest clinical trials focus on very specific tumor types such as tumors that carry specific genetic mutations, markers, or DNA sequencing. Basically, these treatments are tailored to individual cancer diagnoses. Many of these treatments are only available through clinical trials.
Because the promising new treatment is being carefully studied, patients are also carefully monitored by health care professionals to see how they are doing and to watch for side effects. So, patients enrolled in clinical trials tend to talk with their health care professionals more often and are watched more carefully than patients not involved in a trial.
Requirements for clinical trials are strictly managed by the Food and Drug Administration. Before a drug is approved for testing in humans, the FDA ensures that it has gone through strict testing protocols in laboratory animals.
Close to home
Most people are familiar with the tremendous research being conducted all over the country at research institutions, but in fact, many community cancer centers offer opportunities for their patients to participate in clinical trials. Depending on the type of clinical trial you seek, you may have many options that do not require you to travel.
Without clinical trials, there is no progress toward cures for cancer. By participating in scientific research through a clinical trial, you can help future cancer patients access new, better treatments. You can play a more active role in your own health care. People who are treated through clinical trials have access to the best new treatments before the general public.
Now that I know the benefits of clinical trials, what are the risks?
There are risks involved with the treatment for any life-threatening illness, including treatment offered through clinical trials:
- There may be difficult side effects from medications or treatments.
- The treatment may not be effective.
- The clinical trial may require extra time for trips to the study site, treatments, hospital stays, or complex dosage requirements.
However, through the process of "informed consent," your medical team will make sure you understand all the risks and benefits.
How can I find a clinical trial?
If you are interested in participating in clinical research, your first conversation should be with your doctor. She or he may be able to suggest trials or help you search for appropriate options.
My PearlPoint’s Clinical Trial Locator uses clinicaltrials.gov for our search data, as all clinical trials have to be registered with them. Be aware that the information may not be up-to-date. Your best source of information will be with the facility that is conducting the clinical trial. Their contact information will be clearly noted.