By Rivkah Lewin
If you or a loved one have been treated for your illness, but are not benefitting from your medication, a clinical trial may give you access to cutting-edge remedies not available anywhere else. Clinical trials investigate the effectiveness of new medicines, devices, or treatments for cancer of the lung, colon, breast, blood, prostate, and other maladies, such as Parkinson’s and lupus.
While not all treatments researched in clinical trials turn out to be effective for everyone, many do benefit. What’s more, when innovative healing methods are found to be safe and effective, doctors can use them to help cure others who haven’t participated in a clinical trial. And patients don’t have to “go it alone.” There are trials that reach out to patients’ local physicians to create individualized protocols that suit that person’s particular needs.
To find a clinical trial supported by the National Cancer Institute (NCI), go to https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/treatment/clinical-trials/search. There you can type in the kind of cancer the patient has, his or her age, and location to find an appropriate study in your area. One hitch that causes people to nix the idea of joining a trial is the need to travel, if they must go to a particular research site for assessments. Nowadays, some trials are completely remote, enabling participants to attend visits via live video and fill out assessment forms from the comfort of home.
There are even oncology physician networks whose doctors guide patients through their clinical trial journey locally. Regional Cancer Care Associates, one such network, based in Hackensack, NJ, participates in more than 300 advanced clinical trials. RCCA has more than 25 offices throughout New Jersey, Connecticut, Maryland, and Washington, D.C. To find a location near you, click on: RCCA-Map-09-22-20 (regionalcancercare.org).
If you want more support to look for clinical trials on your own, you can reach out to the NCI’s Cancer Information Service, (1-800-422-6237) and select option 2. CIS staff give personalized answers to questions in language non-professionals can understand.
Once you find a trial that you feel may benefit you, look at the eligibility requirements to make sure that study is right for you personally. The people who participate in a trial need to be similar to each other in terms of age, type and stage of cancer, general health, and previous treatment. When all participants meet the criteria, it helps researchers to get accurate results.
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has a “Cancer Details Checklist” that can help you gather information you may need to find out which trials you may be eligible to join: https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/treatment/clinical-trials/search/trial-guide/detailschecklist.pdf. Don’t be discouraged. Your doctor, nurse, or social worker can help you gather information, understand it, and fill out the form. Here are the Checklist’s first three questions: 1) The full medical name of your illness? 2) Where did the cancer first start? (Even if breast cancer spread to the bone, it is still considered breast cancer.) 3) What is the cancer’s cell type? (This is in your pathology report.)
There’s no need to flounder in a sea of questions. These tools can help you take the first steps and make informed decisions to start your clinical-trial journey.
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