Why are there clinical trials?
A clinical trial is one of the final stages of a long and careful cancer research process. Cancer patients are primarily used for these studies to find out whether promising approaches to cancer prevention, diagnosis, and treatment are safe and effective.
Different types of clinical trials
There exist 4 types of clinical trials.
These test new treatments such as a new cancer drug, new approaches to surgery, radiation therapy, new combinations of treatments, or new methods such as gene therapy.
These test new approaches, such as medicines, vitamins, minerals, or other supplements that doctors believe may lower the risk of a certain type of cancer. These trials explore the best way to prevent cancer in people who have never had cancer or to prevent cancer from coming back or a new cancer from occurring in people who have already had cancer.
These test the best way to find cancer, especially in its early stages.
Quality of Life Trials
This is also known as Supportive Care trials. It explores ways to improve comfort and quality of life for cancer patients.
What are the phases of clinical trials?
Most clinical trials are classified in the phases outlined below:
Phase I Trials: This phase enrolls a small number of patients. It basically evaluates how a new drug should be administered looking at factors like orally (by mouth) , Intravenously, injected into the muscle, including frequency and dose distribution.
Phase II Trials: test on drug safety is continued at this phase. Evaluation on the drug’s effectiveness is observed. A particular type of cancer is targeted at Phase II
Phase III Trials: This phase often enrolls a large number of people. It may be conducted at doctors’ offices, clinics and cancer centers. At this phase, a new drug, a new combination of drugs or a new surgical procedure is measured against current standards. Participants are usually assigned at random to a new group or to a standard group.
Phase IV Trails: This phase involves further study after drug has been approved and marketed. At this stage, the rug maker seeks to evaluate side effects, risk and benefits of drug over a long period of time in a larger number of people. The number of people involved in Phase IV trails far surpasses the number involved in Phase III.
Minorities and Clinical Trials
Minority participation in clinical trials remains a major challenge. Breast cancer is the second leading cause of death among Black women (34.1%). However, only 7% of all patients enrolled in a highly positive breast cancer study investigating the addition of Herceptin to conventional adjuvant chemotherapy were African American. Statistics for other trials are similar (Clinical Trial Matters: News from the Coalition of Cancer Cooperative Groups-The Voice for Cancer Clinical Trials, February 2006).
With this low clinical trial turn out, treatment outcome to minority population is not as responsive as seen in the Caucasian population. It is important that minorities and blacks in particular participate in cancer clinical trials to help discovery of medications that will fight and treat cancer. With black communities worldwide being high victims of breast, lung, prostate, colorectal and many other types of cancer, it’s time to participate in one or many clinical trial programs. Your participation will help you and not only the person next to you but those behind you as well.