According to the American Cancer Society, clinical trials are studies in which people volunteer to test new drugs or devices. Doctors use clinical trials to learn whether a new treatment works and is safe for people. These kinds of studies are needed to develop new treatments for serious diseases like cancer.
Clinical trials are vital in studying all aspects of medicine, not just cancer. The stakes may seem higher when researching medicines to treat cancer, but all new treatments (drugs and medical devices) must go through clinical trials before being approved by the FDA (Food and Drug Administration).
There’s always uncertainty when you or a loved one are considering participating in a clinical trial.
According to the American Cancer Society, most people don’t pay much attention to clinical trials until they have a serious illness. Medical breakthroughs (the results of clinical trials or other kinds of research) often make the news, but you usually don’t hear about clinical trials themselves unless something has gone wrong in one of them. For instance, the media quickly reports it any time a volunteer in a study is harmed.
What you usually don’t hear about in the news are the thousands of people who are helped each year because they decided to take part in a clinical trial. You also aren’t likely to hear about the millions who benefit from others’ participation in clinical trials.
Clinical trials are only a small part of the research that goes into developing a new treatment. Drugs of the future, for example, first have to be discovered or created, purified, described, and tested in labs (in cell and animal studies) before ever reaching human clinical trials. Of all the substances that are tested in these early stages, very few are promising enough to be tested in humans.
On average, a new cancer drug has been studied for at least six years before it even makes it to clinical trials. But the major holdup in making new cancer drugs available is how long it takes to complete clinical trials themselves. It takes an average of about 8 years from the time a cancer drug enters clinical trials until it’s approved.
To be sure it’s safe and effective, researchers look at each new treatment in several different studies. Only certain people are eligible (meet the requirements) to take part in each clinical trial. And cancer clinical trials take years to complete. It takes months, if not years, to see if a cancer treatment works in any one person. And figuring out if a drug really improves survival can take a very long time.
The biggest barrier to completing clinical trials is that not enough people take part in them. Fewer than 5% of adults (less than 1 in 20) with cancer will take part in a clinical trial. But clinical trials are much more commonly used to treat children with cancer. In fact, 60% of children under age 15 participate in clinical trials. This is one reason that survival rates for childhood cancer have increased so dramatically in the last few decades.
View Clinical Trials Available at TMH
Through our affiliation with University of Florida Health, the Tallahassee Memorial Cancer Center is proud to offer clinical trials in addition to access to an expanded network of physicians and the latest oncology education without having to leave the Tallahassee area.
The network of clinical trials that are being offered as a result of the TMH/UF Health partnership is called NRG Oncology -- which is under the National Clinical Trials Network of the National Cancer Institute (NCI). NRG is a participant in the Cancer Moonshot program led by Vice President Joe Biden to streamline and enable collaboration among cancer doctors to fight cancer smarter and faster by working together on trials.
In addition, the Tallahassee Memorial Cancer Center is working directly with the companies that make drugs, as well as the Florida State University College of Medicine, to bring the best trial options to our patients.
It is important to realize that all patients should and will have the opportunity to participate. Clinical trials are for everyone and this is just the beginning.
For questions or to learn more about participating in clinical trials at the Tallahassee Memorial Cancer Center, please call Teresa Shannon, Research Coordinator or Brittany Stith, RN, BSN at 850-431-0673.
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