Published on March 2, 2020
When a new cancer therapy is approved for patients, it’s often thanks to generous patients who volunteer to participate in clinical trials. Clinical trials are rigorously designed to help research scientists find new ways to prevent, diagnose and treat cancer. They are used to measure, mitigate, and create new treatments for cancer and figure out how to manage side effects too. There are thousands of cancer clinical trial studies currently recruiting in the United States but fewer than 5 percent of patients enroll in trials.1 Unfortunately, there are several barriers to participation such as knowledge about clinical trials, eligibility based on cancer type and/or stage, age, health status, insurance status, among others. However, there is some progress being made in raising the recruitment rate.
Great Improvements in Pediatric Cancer Survivorship
Clinical trials in pediatric cancer have made a positive impact in overall survivorship for kids, leading to better treatment and prognosis. Approximately 98 percent of children with acute lymphoblastic leukemia go into remission within weeks after starting treatment. By the 10-year mark, these young patients are considered cured if the cancer doesn’t return. 2 These youngsters will likely continue to be monitored throughout their lives for secondary cancers and some of the lingering effects from the treatment.
Many patients are diagnosed with cancer later in life, but only 25 percent of those patients participate in clinical trials. The more patients know about trials, the more likely they are to agree to participate in them. It is important to ask your doctor about the availability of clinical trials for your cancer type. If location is a barrier, some trials are conducted through online networks via telemedicine, allowing patients to stay with their community doctor, while getting state-of-the-art care with a team of experts from other areas.
Bridging the Information Gap
While there is information overload—and lots of misinformation on the Internet—there are trusted sources with evidence-backed experts such as Patient Power. We strive to empower patients by providing sought-after information in a variety of formats. Patient Power has a video that explains how some patients may benefit from enrolling in a trial as the first line of treatment.
Wondering where to start? Head over to our article on Patient Power, written by co-founder Andrew Schorr, outlining the first steps to take when considering whether to participate in a clinical (research) study for your cancer type.
By raising awareness about clinical trials, more patients may be able to participate and help improve patient care overall. You can also learn more about how to access clinical trials in this article—we recommend having a written, running list of questions to ask your doctor and care team—and note their answers! It can be your record of the information they share.
Things to Remember About Clinical Trials
- Participation in a clinical trial (research study) is 100 percent voluntary.
- These studies can help determine if a new therapy is better than current treatments.
- New treatments are approved when research scientists have enough measurable data to draw a conclusion about safety and efficacy.
- The U.S. Food and Drug Administration must approve all new therapies before they are prescribed to the general public.
- Talk to your doctor about whether there is a clinical trial you might be qualified for when you are discussing treatment options.
~Lauren Evoy Davis
Please remember the opinions expressed on Patient Power are not necessarily the views of our sponsors, contributors, partners or Patient Power. Our discussions are not a substitute for seeking medical advice or care from your own doctor. That’s how you’ll get care that’s most appropriate for you.
- Unger JM, et al. Role of Clinical Trial Participation in Cancer Research: Barriers, Evidence, and Strategies. Am Soc Clin Oncol Educ Book. (2016) 35: 185–198. doi: 10.14694/EDBK_156686
- Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia. https://www.stjude.org/disease/acute-lymphoblastic-leukemia-all.html