If you or someone close to you has cancer or has recovered from it, one option for care or prevention you may have overlooked is clinical trials. Clinical trials are research studies that explore new ways to help people avoid or overcome cancer. Thousands of people each year who participate in clinical trials are helped, and millions more benefit later because of the information clinical trials uncover. According to the American Cancer Society, a common reason people give for not taking part is that they simply don't know they can.
What You Need to Know
Any and all new drugs and medical devices must undergo several phases of clinical trials and ultimately be approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration before they can be sold to the general public. If you ever participate in a trial, you might be involved in one of several phases seeking answers to the following questions related to a particular treatment:
- Is it safe? (phase I) (Although treatments are thoroughly tested in laboratory and animal studies, side effects in people cannot always be predicted. Therefore, the tests must involve people.)
- Does it work? (phase II)
- Is it better than what's already available? (phase III)
- Is there a better way to use it? (phase IV)
For every drug that reaches the clinical trial stage, 1,000 are tested first. The initial research and testing of a drug usually takes about four years and then the clinical trial phase takes another eight. But the biggest obstacle to quick approval of drugs and treatments is a shortage of people who are willing to participate. Only 3-5 percent of adults with cancer participate in trials.
Finding a Trial
As you are considering your treatment options, there are generally three ways you'll find out about particular clinical trials.
- Your doctor may suggest one.
- You might see an advertisement for one.
- You can actively search for one.
If you'd like to search for a clinical trial, there's no central clearinghouse, but here are several resources for you to explore.
What if you have found a clinical trail that you would like to enroll in, but you do not meet eligibility requirements. According to the American Cancer Society. Occasionally, there are treatments not yet approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration that may be available to you through expanded access or compassionate use programs. Entering one of these programs can take weeks or months, which may be very frustrating to you if you urgently desire treatment. Nevertheless, you may ultimately be able to have access to the treatment you desire if you can complete the necessary paperwork.
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