Mesothelioma is a rare and devastating form of cancer for which there is currently no cure and only an 18-month life expectancy after diagnosis. Standard cancer treatments such as surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation can help, but doctors and scientists are always on the hunt for novel treatments that may offer hope to mesothelioma patients and their families. In some cases, current mesothelioma patients can help with the search for a cure by participating in clinical trials, which are carefully controlled research studies.
If you have been diagnosed with mesothelioma, you have a lot of important decisions to make, such as determining which treatment plan is right for your individual case. Often, clinical trials are a way for cancer patients to gain access to treatments that would not otherwise have been available to them.
A clinical trial is conducted with volunteer patients in an effort to learn more about promising new treatments or procedures. These may include recently developed drugs, new combinations of established treatments, or even completely revolutionary methods that have never been tried before.
Not only can participants in clinical trials feel proud that they are helping researchers who seek better mesothelioma treatments, but they also often have access to state-of-the-art treatments that may not have otherwise been available to them.
Risks of Clinical Trials
Clinical trials do come with risks. There is always a possibility that the treatment in question may not work as expected, and trial participants must weigh this possibility before opting to forego traditional treatments in exchange for trial treatments. The side effects of clinical trial drugs and treatments may also not be fully discovered during the trial, and trial treatments can be time-consuming and costly. Mesothelioma patients interested in participating in clinical trials should also know that insurance may not cover this new type of drug or treatment.
Mesothelioma patients considering a clinical trial need to carefully weigh all of the benefits against the risks of participation in relation to their specific situation (such as the stage of their mesothelioma, overall health, and other options for treatment available to them).
While it is true that some new treatment methods may have not yet been fully tested for safety, rest assured that researchers spend many years developing medical treatments prior to conducting human trials. Additionally, all clinical studies conducted in the U.S. are carefully monitored and also subject to stringent ethical guidelines and safety standards.
It is also important to remember the cost-benefit dyad when considering participation in a clinical trial. Because mesothelioma is considered a terminal illness, it is valid to consider whether possible health risks involved in an experimental treatment are really a heavy enough concern to outweigh the possibility of that treatment’s success, when facing an already significantly shortened life expectancy. In other words, patients should ask themselves if it is worth it to take a chance if that chance offers their best (or even, only) hope for adding years to their lives.
Always talk to your doctors and other care team members when considering any treatment decision. Beyond predicting your chances of successful treatment, your age, overall health, and the stage and status of your illness all affect whether or not you will be eligible for any particular trial. Certain criteria—variable by each and every trial—must be met for a patient to be enrolled. Your physician can help you to determine which mesothelioma clinical trials may be open to you and which you will not qualify for; in addition, each study will have a cap on the number of participants it can accommodate.
How to Participate in a Mesothelioma Clinical Trial
In order to participate in a clinical trial, you must fulfill a list of requirements that will vary according to the particular trial.
Ask your doctor whether there are any trials in process or in planning at the hospital you work with. You can also call the American Cancer Society’s clinical trials matching service at 1-800-303-5691 or the National Cancer Institute’s Cancer Information Service at 1-800-4-CANCER (1-800-422-6237). Additionally, you can start your search online here.
If you wish to take part in a clinical trial, you must meet certain requirements. It is best to discuss these requirements with your doctor so you can make an educated decision as to the best plan for you.
Answering Your Questions About Mesothelioma Clinical Trials
If you are suffering from mesothelioma, clinical trials may offer you the opportunity to participate in new and promising treatment methods, as well as contribute to groundbreaking research that could benefit thousands of future victims. For answers to some of the most commonly asked questions about joining one of the current or future mesothelioma treatment clinical trials, continue reading below.
What is a mesothelioma clinical trial and how can it help me?
Medical science research that involves human subjects is called a clinical trial. The purpose of a clinical trial is to learn about a medical condition or illness—what causes it, as well as how to diagnose, treat and cure it. Because there is no known cure for malignant mesothelioma as of yet, continuous research is being conducted to test the effectiveness of unique and various methods of treatment.
Depending on the success of these experimental methods, they could potentially offer the best opportunity for recovery from, or at least improved management of, this rare and devastating form of cancer.
During a clinical trial, participants are administered investigational drugs or other curative techniques and closely monitored for changes in their condition and any possible side effects. Once a course of treatment has been concluded, participants are generally followed for a certain amount of time to continue observation of their progress—or lack thereof.
What are the different types of mesothelioma clinical trials?
Clinical trials have four phases. Phase One trials introduce a new form of treatment and seek to evaluate dosing standards and safety of usage. Phase Two trials evaluate the effectiveness of the treatment. Phase Three trials compare and contrast the new treatment with currently used treatments. Phase Four trials look to obtain information about the treatment’s long-term effects and effectiveness – generally after the treatment has been approved for public use by the Food and Drug Administration.
How large are clinical trials for mesothelioma?
The number of participants per trial will vary, but typically, the size of the trial will expand as treatment progresses through the four phases. Phase One trials are relatively small—usually less than a hundred participants and sometimes as few as twenty. Phase Two trials generally employ the involvement of more than one hundred participants but rarely exceed three hundred or so. The final phases of a trial treatment are much larger in scale, averaging two or three thousand.
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