Is a Clinical Trial the Right Choice?
- Clinical trials can give patients access to innovative therapies that have not yet been granted approval by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
- In ovarian cancer, clinical trials are offered in the upfront, recurrent, and refractory (when cancer is resistant to other treatment approaches) settings.
- It’s important for patients to understand that a clinical trial is an experiment. Doctors will be looking for specific criteria within participating patients and will be monitoring how they respond to treatment closely.
- Clinical trials can be life-saving, but they can also be a risk and both pros and cons should be considered.
“We do trials in the upfront, recurrent, and refractory settings,” Dr. Whitfield Growdon, gynecologist-oncologist at NYU’s Perlmutter Cancer Center, tells SurvivorNet. “If I’m talking to somebody where they really have exhausted all of the effective therapies, the conversation can be a little different because the options are so limited. Essentially, the choice is between really not doing anything and letting nature take its course and trying a real experiment.”Read More
Why participate in a clinical trial?Clinical trials are the best way to advance cancer research and find and test out new, potentially life-saving treatments. “Clinical trials hopefully can benefit you, but is also providing very, very vital information to the whole scientific community about the effectiveness of these treatments,” says Dr. Beth Karlan, director of the Women's Cancer Center at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. “They can be lifesaving. We’ve seen many in the last few years of children and adults who have participated in trials and have had miraculous results.”
What to expect during a clinical trial?
Dr. Growdon notes that while a clinical trial is technically an experiment, patients will also be given the standard of care for their disease.
“With a lot of the trials that we do, it’s an experiment but a lot of them involve standard of care. So, you’re basically getting standard of care plus something,” he explains.
He adds, “We always tell people, ‘This is an experiment.’ I like to use the words, you are donating your experience to other people by signing up for a clinical trial even one that has standard of care embedded in it. You’re donating your experience so that we get to write it down in a rigorous fashion, to allow us to establish something new as a standard of care.”
Dr. Growdon stresses that patients need to understand that while the treatments given in clinical trials may help, there’s also a good chance that they won’t. Patients can also be injured in a trial.
However, patients can also stop participating in a trial at any time. “They have complete autonomy,” Dr. Growdon says. “This is a choice to donate your experience.”
If you are interested in signing up for a clinical trial, it’s also important to understand that there are specific criteria doctors are looking for with patients in their trials, and you may not be eligible for every trial that you think sounds promising.