Patients should consider a research trial as a treatment option.
I spent Saturday morning listening to cancer researchers describe the latest cancer innovations and discoveries. Scientists hope to soon predict how cancer cells try to “outsmart” treatment; one researcher compared it to a chess champion thinking 20 moves ahead of his opponent. By finding ways to pin down the “moving targets,” researchers can better develop therapies for types of cancer once considered to be unconquerable.
Every day, genetic profiling from biopsies becomes faster, more accurate, more informative, and less expensive. This genetic profiling helps a medical team know every facet of a tumor’s DNA, giving scientists new information that may influence how well they can slow or stop a particular type of cancer. As these new discoveries come to light, researchers can develop completely new “plans of attack” to safely and thoroughly treat cancer.
Scientists are continually struggling to get data so they can prove that new treatments work safely and better than older, more widely accepted therapies. There is an exact, highly regulated process to get new drugs and treatments approved for the public; that process requires many years, millions of dollars, and tens of thousands of people.
So why aren’t these cures here yet? A critical factor is the lack of patients participating in bringing these new treatments through the research process. Right now less than 3% of adult cancer patients participate in clinical trials. Many patients report fear of clinical trials. However, with all the recent discoveries, their best treatment option may ONLY be available through participation in these clinical trials. We simply won’t have access to better therapies until those potential treatments are proven.
If you have just been diagnosed with cancer, please ask your doctor to test your tumor for mutations. Knowing the genetic profile might very well change the therapy chosen, including the possibility of participating in a clinical trial, which could improve survival. There are many misconceptions about clinical trials, misconceptions that are preventing medicine from moving faster than cancer.