Sarah Cannon - May 25, 2022
Explore seven reasons why clinical trial participation might be right for you.
- The smartest minds in medicine designed this for you
Most oncology treatments have been studied for at least six years prior to entering clinical trial. There are a number of therapies that have proven track records in other diseases or other stages of the same disease. Trial design includes a large collection of many of the brightest minds in medicine—nationally recognized physician thought leaders, pharmaceutical industry pioneers, large collaborative international work groups, disease specific patient advocates, and experienced regulatory oversight. Trials compare head-to-head two (or more) therapy options. Those options include the current standard (which is sometimes studied by observation) vs. an experimental option that researchers think might be better. If experts didn’t think the experimental arm had a chance to improve outcomes—the trial would never happen.
- You trust your physician
When your doctor agreed to open this trial at your facility, they carefully reviewed the experimental medicine and the background science in careful detail. They agreed the trial is a valid option for treatment regardless of which arm of the study you are randomized to. That background knowledge is why they are offering it to you. Your physician believes the trial is a great option. As always ask questions, but have trust in their recommendation.
- Institutional Review Boards that protect your rights
An institutional review board (IRB) is an independent body designated to evaluate and monitor all clinical research at your hospital/health system to protect the rights and welfare of human research subjects. The process is unique to trials and doesn’t exist in standard practice. There is no independent group of people reviewing your care and watching out for your best interest unless you are on a clinical trial. The review boards ensure clinical trials are conducted both ethically and safely for all participants.
- Clinical trials staff who closely monitor you
When you are receiving care on a clinical trial, every part of your care is monitored not only by your physician, but also by a trained set of clinical research staff members. They look at every lab, every medicine, every symptom, and carefully interrogate the impact on you, your care, and your outcome. They adhere to protocols making sure labs, imaging, and medications are all done exactly right.
- Science needs this
Trial participation is selfless. There may or may not be benefits to you, but the trial results will significantly benefit patients that come after you because it helps cancer experts to see what is working and what is not. When he was Vice President, President Joe Biden launched the Cancer Moonshot Initiative to increase cancer research and make more therapies available to more patients. President Biden’s renewed focus on the Cancer Moonshot is welcome news, and his plan to reduce cancer mortality by 50 percent over 25 years will require unprecedented collaboration and innovation. The only hope to shoot the moon is to have more patients enrolling in trials. Trials are often widely criticized for not having enough gender, age, race, geographic, or socioeconomic diversity. Your participation may fill an under-represented bucket. Every news story about a promising new therapy was made possible by clinical trial participants just like you.
- Kids are doing it
Only 5% of adults with cancer are participating in clinical trials, yet there are regular outcries about “finding a cure” and “fighting cancer.” The oncology community fights with knowledge and with science. Children have demonstrated that most eloquently. Childhood cancer survival rates far exceed cancer survival rates in adults. 60% of children with cancer are treated on clinical trial. That is not a coincidence.
- Information is power
When you enroll on a clinical trial, you undergo “informed consent,” which means you receive a long, detailed document carefully outlining every step with information reviewed by dozens of experts, written in your language, on your reading level. It can be overwhelming. Yet every current standard of care once had an informed consent form. In contrast, when offering standard of care, your doctor may not offer the same comprehensive, individualized written summary of risks and benefits. Informed consents are your right as a patient. Get all the information.
Physicians and patient advocates alike are fighting for better access to clinical trials and more comprehensive trial options for patients. This desperation speaks to the important role clinical trials play in cancer care. However, trials are not right for everyone. In one-on-one discussions with patients, physicians aim to present balanced information between trial participation and standard of care. They never want to coerce a patient into clinical trial participation. They want you to feel confident and empowered in your decision.