Bon Secours’ William J. Irvin, MD, discusses clinical trials for oncology. He describes them as “tomorrow’s treatment today.” Clinical trials give patients access to the newest and best treatments for cancer. Click here to find cancer clinical trials in your community.
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From Institute for Patient Access
May 18, 2020
This year’s Clinical Trials Awareness Week falls squarely in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. The week’s theme, “Clinical Trials During a National Public Health Emergency,” explores how the coronavirus demands and, in some cases, also disrupts clinical research. It also prompts an important underlying question: Once the pandemic subsides, will the public retain a greater awareness and appreciation of clinical trials?
More than 100 potential novel coronavirus vaccines are being developed by research teams around the globe. In the United States, pharmaceutical companies, university researchers and government agencies are working together to find a vaccine. Meanwhile, the FDA recently approved existing drug remdesivir for emergency use in treating people infected with COVID-19.
But finding effective COVID-19 treatments takes time. Anthony Fauci, MD, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease, has stated that it will take at least a year or more to provide a workable vaccine.
While this effort moves forward, clinical trials investigating potential medications for non-coronavirus related diseases are being pushed to the back burner. Reporting from NPR indicates that 440 clinical trials, involving as many as 200,000 people, have been suspended because of the coronavirus outbreak. One-quarter of the trials put on hold were exploring cancer treatments, with research on strokes, dementia, and other serious conditions stalled as well.
Clinical trials during the pandemic pose a number of challenges. Researchers and sponsors must decide if enough staff are available, and if visiting health care facilities is worth the risk of virus exposure for trial participants. Meanwhile, data obtained from trials will take longer to develop, with radiology suites and other offices closed.
Clinical Trials Awareness After COVID-19
But the COVID-19 pandemic could also have positive long-term implications for clinical trials.
In years past, people often have had little awareness of clinical trials until they or a family member needed to join one. The lack of knowledge makes clinical trials difficult to enroll and conduct, even under normal circumstances. Over one-third of trial sites fail to meet their enrollment goals, with more than one site in 10 unable to enroll even a single patient.
By elevating public awareness of clinical trials, the COVID-19 pandemic could alter that trend.
If the coronavirus outbreak offers any silver lining, perhaps it’s that the country’s experience could stimulate public interest and participation in future trials, ushering in a period of robust research that yields meaningful treatments for patients, families and communities.
Finding a novel coronavirus vaccine will save lives. But it could also mark the beginning of a greater public awareness of the importance of clinical trials.
SCOR member site Southeastern Medical Oncology Center (SMOC) uses the same guidelines, methods and protocols used by major cancer centers that patients can access close to home. Plus, we have a highly capable, informed and experienced team of cancer specialists, oncology nurses and support staff who combine exceptional training, knowledge and skill to give you every chance in the fight against cancer. Since 1984, SMOC has been dedicated to providing the people of North Carolina the most advanced, effective and appropriate cancer care and hematology care available today. With genuine compassion and a deep commitment to your health, quality of life and best interests, we strive to offer not just the highest standard of care but also heartfelt understanding, comprehensive support and — ultimately — hope in the fight against cancer.
Expanding your treatment options and chances for cure.
At SMOC, we are committed to finding cures for cancer, and our doctors are nationally recognized for their contributions to this effort. One key way we are helping advance the fight against cancer is by getting involved in the investigation of new treatment options via clinical trials.
By participating in more than 100 different clinical trials (investigations of new potential treatments), we’re able to offer alternative options — and new hope — for people who don’t respond well to standard-of-care treatments.
What is a “clinical trial”?
A clinical trial is a research study designed to test new medical techniques (medications, devices, etc.) and their effectiveness in the prevention, detection, diagnosis and cure of diseases. Clinical trials are investigations that let doctors determine if new approaches are safe, and identify the benefits and risks associated with them.
Clinical trials are, in fact, the method by which all medical therapies, devices and techniques are evaluated. Therefore, all treatments used today were first investigated through clinical trials. Likewise, tomorrow’s standard-of-care treatments will first go through clinical trials, and they may be getting investigated today. Without clinical trials, new drugs and treatments for cancer would not be investigated, get approved or come into use to benefit patients.
SMOC: Broad access to leading clinical trials.
At Southeastern Medical Oncology Center, we actively participate in several nationally and internationally recognized cancer investigational consortiums funded by the National Cancer Institute, including:
- National Surgical Adjuvant Breast and Bowel Project
- Southwest Oncology Group
- Radiation Therapy Oncology Group
- Cancer and Leukemia Group B
- University of Rochester Cancer Center
In fact, SMOC is involved in the same clinical studies as major cancer centers, such as UNC, Duke and Sloan Kettering. Southeastern Medical Oncology Center is also active in pharmaceutical company trials for the development of emerging cancer therapies. This enables us to offer you or your loved one the “beyond-state-of-the-art” care people assume is only available at these major institutions.
Should you participate in a clinical trial?
The decision to participate in a cancer clinical trial, or not, is an important decision that only you can make… and which should be considered carefully. Your views on scientific evidence, your feelings about your disease and your personal attitudes about health are all vital to consider.
Researching clinical trials is likely the best way to start figuring out if they may be right for you. Discussing the issue with your oncology specialist and your family is also vitally important. Clinical trials are not for everyone. So it’s important to weigh all aspects of the studies in your decision, including these considerations:
- Care from cancer specialists on the leading edge of their field
- Access to new drugs that may not be otherwise available
- Information from your experience that can benefit other patients and possibly the future of cancer treatment
- Advancement of the scientific knowledge of cancer and cancer treatment
- The risk of side effects
- You may not be able to choose treatment in trials, such as in Phase III where treatments are randomly assigned
- Your health insurance plan may not cover the study
- Clinical trials may require more time than standard treatment
If you are considering participating in a clinical study, be sure to consult with your SMOC oncologist. He or she can recommend trials that may be most appropriate for you and answer any additional questions you may have about side effects, benefits, costs and quality-of-life.
To see which clinical trials SMOC is currently participating in, click here to link to Southeast Clinical Oncology Research Consortium. To schedule an appointment, call 919-580-0000. You can also schedule an appointment using our easy online form.