Clinical trials and the fight against cancer

Interesting article in the New York Times concerning clinical trials.  You may remember that last month I wrote about the Love/Avon Army of Women partnership and this article for me highlights exactly why Dr Love started this initaitive.

“Not long ago, at a meeting of an advisory group established by Congress to monitor the war on cancer, participants were asked how to speed progress”, writes Gina Kolata in the article.

“Everyone was talking about expanding the cancer work force and getting people to stop smoking,” said Dr. Scott Ramsey, a cancer researcher and health economist, who was participating in that January 2008 meeting of the President’s Cancer Panel. “Lots of murmurs of approval.”

Then it was his turn.

The biggest barrier, in his opinion, was that almost no adult cancer patients — just 3 percent — participate in studies of cancer treatments, mostly new drugs or drug regimens.

“To me it was obvious,” Dr. Ramsey said. “We can’t improve survival unless we test new treatments against established ones.”

The room fell silent.

“It was one of those embarrassing moments,” said Dr. Ramsey, an associate professor at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center in Seattle. He had brought up the subject he said no one wanted to touch.

Forty years after President Richard M. Nixon declared war on cancer, death rates have barely changed. “Why aren’t we getting cures?” Dr. Ramsey said. “This is one of the biggest reasons.”

There are more than 6,500 cancer clinical trials seeking adult patients, according to clinicaltrials.gov, a trials registry. But many will be abandoned along the way. More than one trial in five sponsored by the National Cancer Institute failed to enroll a single subject, and only half reached the minimum needed for a meaningful result, Dr. Ramsey and his colleague John Scoggins reported in a recent review in The Oncologist.”

It is an illuminating article, which expands on the reasons why people don’t wish to go through the process of clinical trials. “Most patients are not interested in clinical trials. Some do not want the extra office visits and tests a trial entails and do not want their treatment determined by the flip of a coin. Others fear getting a placebo, even if there isn’t one — placebos are rarely used in United States cancer trials. Others find the whole idea too overwhelming when they are trying to save their lives.”

I inagine if I had been asked at the time of my diagnosis to participate in the trial, I too would have refused, for all of the above reasons, especially the fear of getting a placebo. I am starting to think differently now and feel unbounded admiration for those who do choose to participate. Take the time, if you haven’t already done so, to check out the Army of Women iniatitive, and see how you can make a difference in the fight against breast cancer.

Read this article in full here.

EUROPA DONNA – The European Breast Cancer Coalition publishes a booklet Breast Cancer and Clinical Trials in order to inform women about clinical trials. This can be read on the ED website ( www.europadonna.org ).