Clinical trials are a crucial tool for advancing medical knowledge and patients who participate can benefit from these new and emerging treatments. Understanding the clinical trial process and how to find a trial can empowers patients to make informed treatment choices from day one. Today, the NIH website lists more than 280 pancreatic cancer clinical trials actively recruiting in the United States. Whether the trial is for adenocarcinoma (PDAC) or neuroendocrine tumors (NETs), the goal of a pancreatic cancer clinical trial is to improve patient outcomes and save lives.
The Clinical Trial Process
The complex nature of pancreatic cancer requires attacking the disease from all directions. Clinical trial research is designed to analyze and question the benefits and risks of a promising new treatment before it can be approved for patients. Emerging cancer treatments include, but are not limited to, new drugs, drug combinations, targeted therapy, immunotherapy, radiation and chemotherapy. Over the course of months or years, a promising pre-clinical study advances into a human clinical trial that builds from phase I to phase IV. Trials are developed for all stages of pancreatic cancer and may recruit participants in phases I-IV. If each phase demonstrates success, the therapy is approved by the FDA and made available to public.
Clearing Up Misconceptions
Experimental treatments developed in clinical trials can offer a lifeline for patients and families. That is why it is critical that patients’ concerns and questions are addressed. One common misconception is that clinical trials are a last resort. New drugs and treatments can actually be beneficial early-on in a treatment plan rather than waiting until options are exhausted.
Another common roadblock for patients is an initial apprehension as to how safe a clinical trial is because of its experimental nature. Clinical trials have some risk, however, from start-to-finish specific practices are put in motion to ensure patient safety. Patients must give informed consent and researchers develop clinical trial protocols, follow FDA regulations, are monitored and scrutinized by an Institutional Review Board and Data & Safety Monitoring Board. World-class scientists are committed to unlocking the answers to pancreatic cancer through clinical trials and accomplishing the task safely. <
Finally, it is important that the people who are eligible and will benefit from the research are represented in clinical trials. In 2018, an FDA Clinical Trial Snapshot disclosed that 48% of all adult clinical trials missed their target recruitment goal for minorities. Balanced representation can only be achieved if patients, doctors and clinical trial recruiting processes share this goal.
Finding a Clinical Trial
Clinical trials are helping to transform medicine, personalize treatment and expand our medical knowledge for generations to come. If you are interested in exploring a clinical trial, discuss this option with your oncologist or physician. The following resources can help you or a loved one find a clinical trial that is right for you.
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- Hirshberg Foundation video A-B-C’s of Clinical Trials
- National Institutes of Health NIH) clinical trial database
- National Cancer Institute (NCI) search tool
- MassiveBio’s SYNERGY search platform
- EmergingMed’s clinical trial navigator service
- Let’s Win PC video on How to Find a Clinical Trial
- UCLA clinical trial search tool