Are clinical trials a last resort? This is a common question for breast cancer patients and their loved ones. It’s understandable why this perception of clinical trials exists today. Historically, breast cancer patients had far fewer treatment options, and it became an accepted view that clinical trials were the last resort for many patients.
Years ago, volunteers may have been in the later stages of their cancer before enrolling in a clinical trial, having exhausted most other options. They signed up knowing that they would help further cancer research, while still hoping for personal benefit. Today’s advancements in cancer care and survival rates are the results of progress made in clinical trials and are largely due to those volunteers and their participation.
The National Cancer Institute (NCI) reports that the increased survival rates in the past five years are directly attributable to breast cancer clinical trials for new drugs and treatments. Current drugs used in breast cancer treatment, including Herceptin, Tamoxifen, and radiation therapies, are the result of clinical trials.
What’s the reality of clinical trials today?
Today, clinical trials provide access to cutting-edge treatments. Many doctors regard them as the gold standard of care for breast cancer patients. Volunteers can enroll in clinical trials much sooner in their cancer journey than in past decades, including many newly diagnosed patients.
Are clinical trials a last resort? They are no longer perceived as such for cancer patients. Clinical trials can develop new cancer treatments, discover how to limit side effects and symptoms, and detect and prevent cancer earlier.
Cures begin with clinical trials.
Why are clinical trials important?
Clinical trials are important because they are the conduits through which research, better treatments, and cures flow. They move the science of cancer research forward so new and beneficial treatments can help people in real-world applications.
Trials are designed and conducted to identify more effective therapies. According to the American Cancer Society, new drugs for breast cancer treatment on average are studied for at least six years before any clinical trials with humans begin. If a drug or therapy doesn’t work as intended, it is a learning opportunity for researchers to figure out why it wasn’t effective across different groups of patients.
As the amount of research and knowledge about breast cancer grows, new treatments and therapies are constantly developing and becoming available to breast cancer patients in all stages of their cancer journey, whether they’re newly diagnosed or have tried other treatments.
Clinical trials are also crucial because they give volunteers access to the latest treatments that may become tomorrow’s standard of care. That said, in any trial, volunteers receive the current standard of care, which is what they would receive from their doctors if they were not enrolled in a clinical trial. Their care is provided by the best cancer specialists in the nation. Their lab tests, scans, and side effects are closely scrutinized and monitored by clinical trial staff, assuring patients that they are getting everything possible in their fight against breast cancer.
Additionally, breast cancer patients who may be unable to afford treatment can enroll in clinical trials as a way to receive not only standard of care but also the latest treatments at either low or no cost, depending upon the clinical trial.
How do you prepare for application to a clinical trial?
Before enrolling in a clinical trial, you should have all your medical records available to submit to the clinical trial researchers. They will need to see your records to determine whether you match their criteria.
Each trial has specific eligibility criteria, such as a particular type, stage, or grade of breast cancer. Speaking with your doctor to understand what trials might apply to you is also an essential step.
Understanding who owns your medical records and how to gather them is another critical and challenging step. Ciitizen is a private company that helps breast cancer patients collect and store their medical records for free on its secure servers.
Once you have your records and are ready to apply, how do you find the breast cancer clinical trials that are right for you?
Where can I find an applicable breast cancer clinical trial?
Many websites and organizations have information on finding clinical trials. They will help you search for the trials that best apply to your type of cancer and/or are located in your geographic region. These organizations are at the forefront of cancer information in the United States and provide the latest data available.
- The American Cancer Society has information about the latest advancements in breast cancer care and how to pick a clinical trial.
- BreastCancerTrials.org lists breast cancer trials and has a tool that enables you to browse ongoing trials by location, phases, and stages of breast cancer, and it can also be centered on where you live.
- Ciitizen is a private company that offers a free clinical trial-matching service for advanced and metastatic breast cancer patients through its partnership with IQVIA, the world’s largest clinical research organization.
- ClinicalTrials.gov, affiliated with the National Library of Medicine, lists clinical trials for cancer and many other diseases.
- The NCI has a website that can help you find NCI-supported clinical trials that take place across the United States, Canada, and internationally.
- Research hospitals also offer clinical trials. Major research hospitals that run breast cancer clinical trials include:
- MD Anderson Cancer Center at the University of Texas, Houston
- Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in the New York City tri-state area
- Johns Hopkins Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center in Baltimore, Maryland
- Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota
- Cleveland Clinic in Cleveland, Ohio
Are clinical trials a last resort?
Clinical trials for breast cancer are more sought out than ever and not just by patients in the later stages of their cancer journey. Trails may actually be the first option of treatment for many breast cancer patients. Today, clinical trials should not be thought of as a last resort, but rather as an option with excellent standards of care and the latest therapies in fighting breast cancer.
Clinical trials advance medicine and help develop innovative treatments for today’s breast cancer patients and those of the future as we move toward a cure.
Ciitizen is a free service that helps patients get more out of their health records. Our platform enables patients to find better treatment options and gives them the opportunity to advance the research for cures.
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