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Cancer Clinical Trials

The Cancer Center at Lowell General Hospital provides patients with the option of participating in cancer clinical trials. This allows our patients' access to treatments that are new and sometimes cutting-edge, right here in the community.

What are Clinical Trials?

Cancer Clinical Trials are research studies that involve people. Studies are done with cancer patients to find out whether promising approaches to cancer prevention, diagnosis, and treatment are safe and effective. Clinical trials are important to develop new treatments for cancer. Many of today's standard cancer treatments - treatments that are accepted and widely used by medical experts - are based on the results of previous clinical trials.

Many trials are randomized which means that you are randomly assigned to groups that compare different treatments. At the time of the trial it is not know which treatment works best. Generally one of the groups will receive the ‘standard of care' while the other group may receive the standard of care plus an additional medication or therapy.

Taking part in Clinical Trials

In 2005, the Coalition of Cancer Cooperative Groups published "The Need to Know" survey outlining patient responses to participating in clinical trials.

  • 97% felt they were fully informed on risks and benefits
  • 96% felt they were treated with dignity and respect
  • 92% had a positive experience
  • 91% would recommend a trial to others

It is important to know that when taking part in a clinical trial - you will always receive at least the standard therapy for your cancer. Some patients fear that enrolling in a clinical trial means they chance receiving no treatment at all. The reality is that patients in clinical trials receive either the best treatment currently known for their cancer, or a new, and possibly more effective therapy. Placebos (sugar pills) are never used in place of treatment when an existing standard therapy exists.

For more information, read the National Cancer Institute's booklet: "Taking Part in Cancer Research Treatment Studies"

What are some of the benefits of taking part in a clinical trial?

The benefits of participating in a clinical trial include the following:

  • Participants have access to promising new approaches that are often not available outside the clinical trial setting.
  • The approach being studied may be more effective than the standard approach.
  • Participants receive regular and careful medical attention from the research team.
  • Participants may be the first to benefit from the new method under study.
  • Results from the study may help others in the future.

What are some of the possible risks associated with taking part in a clinical trial?

The possible risks of participating in a clinical trial include the following:

  • New drugs or procedures under study are not always better than the standard care to which they are being compared.
  • New treatments may have side effects or risks that doctors do not expect or that are worse than those resulting from standard care.
  • Participants in randomized trials will not be able to choose the approach they receive.
  • Health insurance and managed care providers may not cover all patient care costs in a study.
  • Participants may be required to make more visits to the doctor than they would if they were not in the clinical trial.

Are Clinical Trials the last resort in treatment?

No. There are Clinical Trials available for all stages of cancer from pre-diagnosis to third or fourth line treatment. Often clinical trials are a good way to start treatment. A clinical trial is a treatment option to be considered at the point of diagnosis, not only a last-ditch effort when all other options are exhausted.

By learning about available treatments, including clinical trials, patients are able to fully weigh their options and decide on the best course of treatment for them.

Click here for a list of Current Open Clinical Trials at Lowell General Hospital.

For more information, please contact our Clinical Research Nurse, Gayle Hincks, at 978-788-7084.

 

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