For many cancer patients, taking part in a clinical trial is a way to contribute to cancer research, and receive some hope for their own improved treatment of cancer. Despite advances made, there is no cure for cancer. Not yet, anyway.
Many clinical trials aim to increase longevity of the patient, while others focus on the patient’s quality of life, lessening side effects of cancer or its treatment. Some trials can offer state of the art, cutting edge care that if successful, won’t be available for several years down the road.
A clinical trial is a structured research study with human volunteers. These volunteers take and evaluate a new drug or treatment before that drug or treatment can be offered to the general public. According to the National Institute of Health, more than 56,000 clinical trials are currently underway in the U.S., and 13,000 trials are recruiting volunteers.
After approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, there are three steps to clinical trials:
- Volunteers test the drug, treatment or product safety.
- Volunteers test the drug, treatment or product efficiency.
- Volunteers test the drug, treatment or product effectiveness. This is the most complicated of all the steps in a trial. This is the stage where dosages, populations, and standard of care are compared.
If the drug is approved and marketed by the FDA (Food and Drug Administration), a fourth stage may occur to test long-term use of the drug, treatment or product.
Why volunteer for a clinical trial?
When treatment for your cancer or other disease isn’t promising, or when treatment for a rare disease isn’t known, or if you want to contribute to research.
Where to find possible clinical trials searching for volunteers:
Many hospital or clinic websites also list clinical trials. Or ask your oncologist. (But keep in mind they or may not know of clinical trials outside their hospital.)
Not all drugs, treatments or products tested are approved by the FDA, and not all patients in the clinical trial receive the new drug, treatment or product. But even the volunteers receiving standard care (as opposed to testing) are monitored, perhaps even rigorously, to compare with the clinical trial.