When Fran Noonan was told she would have the opportunity to enroll in a new clinical trial for glioblastoma multiforme (GBM), she could not get to Cleveland fast enough. She put her full trust in Andrew Sloan, MD, and his team, and, to use Noonan’s words, “the results have been a miracle.”
What are clinical trials?
Clinical trials are research studies that involve people. These clinical studies help doctors to:
- find new ways to treat cancer
- manage symptoms of cancer and side effects of treatments
- find better ways to prevent cancer and catch it earlier.
Many trials have been pioneered right here at the Case Comprehensive Cancer Center. As one of only 51 National Cancer Institute-designated comprehensive cancer centers, Cleveland’s center offers early access to clinical trials that are an important part of identifying, treating and curing cancer.
What are the different types of clinical trials?
Clinical trials examine prevention, screening, treatment and quality of life (supportive care).
- Prevention: Researchers seek ways to lower the risk of cancer, from lifestyle to diet.
- Screening: Screening trials look for new ways to identify cancer before symptoms exist.
- Treatment: These trials are, perhaps, the most familiar. They look at new treatments and new combinations of existing treatments.
- Quality of life (supportive care): Quality of Life trials look for ways to improve the comfort of those living with cancer. For example, experts may study drugs to reduce chemotherapy side effects or control pain.
What is a clinical trials phase?
Cancer clinical trials are done in "phases." Each phase is designed to answer a separate research question.
- Phase I looks for a safe dose.
- Phase II measures effectiveness.
- Phase III compares new treatment with best existing cancer treatment.
- Phase IV evaluates new uses or long-term effects of the treatment.
Why should I participate in clinical trials?
Diversity in clinical trials is very important! Today, only a small percentage of minorities are in clinical trials. For many years clinical trials were performed on only white men. Large groups such as African Americans, women, and other minorities were left out. Sometimes, cancer treatments can affect racial and ethnic groups differently. By joining a clinical trial, you can help future generations!
Are clinical trials safe?
Each clinical trial is thoroughly reviewed and checked by the hospital’s Institutional Review Board and research staff. These teams make sure that patients understand the study’s purpose and risks. Today, federal laws are in place to protect you from being taken advantage of through medical research.
Are clinical trials free?
The costs of treatments, testing and doctor visits are usually covered by insurance. Talk to your doctor and members of the research team about any out-of-pocket costs you may have. We have financial counselors and social workers that can help with you with costs of cancer treatments.
How can I get involved in a clinical trial?
Talk to your doctor or nurse and ask to speak to a member of the research study team to see if there is a clinical trial that is right for you. Make sure you understand the information that you see or hear. Talk with your loved ones and anyone who helps you make decisions. You can call family and friends while seeing your doctor so they can ask questions.
Things to remember when considering a clinical trial
Deciding to participate in a clinical trial is a personal decision. Here are some things to keep in mind as you weigh your options.
- A clinical trial may be the best treatment option for you.
- You may be able to keep your doctor when you join a clinical trial.
- Protections are in place to ensure you feel safe every step of the way.
- The research team is an extra layer of help for you when you are on a clinical trial. They will monitor you closely for side effects.
- If you decide to participate in a trial, you can change your mind at any time.
- The knowledge gained from a clinical trial can help others now and future generations.
The decision is yours. Gather information, ask questions, talk with your healthcare provider and discuss with people you trust.
For more information about your clinical trials options, please contact:
UH Seidman Cancer Center
National Cancer Institute
Call: 1.800.4.CANCER (1.800.422.6237)