What You Should Know About Participating in a Cancer Clinical Trial
May 10, 2017
Learning you have cancer, or that cancer has returned, is shocking news. After you begin to wrap your mind around it your main focus is probably, “How can I beat this?” In most situations your oncologist begins treatments using established, proven cancer treatment protocols based on the specific type of cancer you have been diagnosed with. For some people, the most commonly effective cancer treatments don't work as expected, and in these cases your cancer specialist may recommend enrolling in a cancer clinical trial. Should you do this? Find out more about cancer research done right in your community.
Cancer Research isn’t Always a New Therapy
Often times clinical trials involve fine-tuning and already FDA-approved cancer treatment. It’s only through clinical research that new cancer treatment options are available -- and more often now than ever before. Plus, cancer researchers are finding ways to use or combine existing FDA-approved cancer treatments for other types of cancer or situations. But before these new options can be made available to everyone, they undergo a careful and extensive testing process through clinical trials.
There are four primary clinical trial phases:
- Phase 1: Determine if the new cancer treatment is safe and look for early signs of effectiveness.
- Phase 2: Determine if the new cancer treatment has an effect on certain types of cancer, and what the best dosages are.
- Phase 3: Compare a new treatment with the current standard cancer treatment for a particular type of cancer to answer the question: Is the new treatment being studied more effective than what's available now? Usually, promising drugs that aren’t already approved, will undergo FDA approval during phase 3 trials.
- Phase 4: Evaluate existing FDA-approved cancer treatments for new uses, understand the long-term benefits and risks, new combinations of therapies, etc.
Most cancer patients who participate in clinical trials at Compass Oncology join a cancer research trial that is in Phase 3 or 4. The studies are considered safe for patients and offer cancer treatment options when others aren’t working effectively.
How Do You Participate in a Cancer Research Trial?
You and your oncologist can discuss the possible option of a clinical trial when discussing treatment options. Trials are not right for all patients. But if there is a clinical trial that would be right for you, and you agree to participate, you may be more carefully monitored throughout the entire process of treatment. This may require more visits than a typical patient would have, but it can be a good feeling to see your cancer care team more often as you progress through treatment.
The research team may also contact you regularly after treatment is complete to see how effective it is in the long run. Typically there’s no extra cost to the patient for this additional care. The clinical research team will carefully go over this with you.
Is a Clinical Trial Right for You?
Fighting cancer is physically and emotionally draining. Participating in a clinical trial shouldn’t add to your stress level, but it’s normal for you and your family to wonder if it’s going to work and if it’s safe. Rest assured, before a cancer treatment is available in a clinical trial at Compass Oncology, it has already been studied extensively. Oncologists wouldn't administer it to humans if they didn’t believe it would be safe. But be sure that you and your caretakers are on-board with the process and what you’ll need to do to participate before agreeing.
Questions and Concerns About Participating in a Clinical Trial
If you’re considering participating in a clinical cancer trial, discuss your questions, concerns and expectations with the cancer research experts and your oncologist at the cancer treatment center. Some questions to ask include:
- Why is this study being done?
- Is the trial testing new dosages or combinations of a drug that is already FDA-approved, or is it testing a new therapy?
- How will I know if I’m qualified to participate?
- What will I have to do as a participant? Is it a large time commitment?
- How often will the clinical trials need to see me?
- How long will the study last?
- What type of side effects do you expect?
- Will I have to pay anything to participate in the clinical trial?
- Will the researchers tell me the results of the study?
- If the treatment is effective for my cancer, can I still get it after the study?
At Compass Oncology we sponsor more clinical trials than any other cancer treatment facility in the Portland-Vancouver area. At any given time, we have more than 70 active trials and have been a part of bringing several new cancer therapies to patients across the country. If you’re interested in learning about clinical trials appropriate for your specific cancer diagnosis, we encourage you to visit our Clinical Trials & Research at Compass Oncology.