Cancer Care Research

How do Cancer Clinical Trials Work?

April 19, 2019

How do Cancer Clinical Trials Work?

Hi I’m Dr. Ryan Ramaekers, a medical oncologist and medical director here at the CHI Health St. Francis Cancer Center. We are very proud of our clinical trial program that we have available for patients. We are part of multiple clinical trial research networks across the country and participate in around 70 clinical trials that are currently open for enrollment. This presents a great opportunity for our patients that they really cannot get elsewhere in the region.  We feel like we offer patients the most opportunities to receive the most advanced treatment options that they could get really anywhere else in the country through our involvement in these clinical trial networks.

We have really seen incredible success through some of our clinical trials and have patients that have received some of the newer drugs that they otherwise could not have received for several years, until they become FDA approved.

When our patients seek out second opinions from larger cancer institutions around the country they are often told at these facilities to come back to CHI Health St. Francis and to sign up for the clinical trial that we have available. These larger cancer institutions actually have no better clinical trials that the trials we have to offer here. That is one of the huge advantages of being a part of these large clinical trial networks.

Cancer Treatment if You Participate in a Clinical Trial

A common misconception about clinical trials is that we might be under-treating a patient or we might be using medications that are not proven safe. In oncology clinical trials, placebos are not used very often. At a minimum, every patient gets the standard-of-care. As a clinical trial patient, you are going to essentially be guaranteed at least the standard of care treatment and then you have the opportunity to be potentially selected or “randomized” to receive an experimental agent in addition to the standard of care. We are actually enhancing the aggressiveness of our cancer treatment by allowing patients an opportunity to receive cancer treatment options that they would not otherwise receive if we were just using standard of care. We will occasionally use placebos in place of these experimental drugs but rest assured, these medications that you would receive during a clinical trial are going to at least equal the standard of care that you could receive through standard treatment elsewhere.

Are Placebos Used in Cancer Clinical Trials?

There are often misconceptions about how clinical trials are designed and I think this is actually the most exciting aspect of clinical trials. These trials that we take part in are designed by world experts that specialize in the particular type of cancer. When you sign up for a clinical trial for a particular cancer, the expert in that type of cancer, or field of experts, have designed the trial based on other smaller trials. The smaller trials were performed typically in humans to show that the drugs are safe and have already shown some proven benefit in treating that particular cancer. These experts have designed the trials to then move on to larger – what we usually call Phase 2 or phase 3 trials — that then would give you the opportunity for this this kind of late breaking drug or experimental agent that you really wouldn’t otherwise be able to receive.

If you have any questions about our clinical trials, visit CHI Health Saint Francis or you can also contact our Clinic directly. If you’re interested in a referral and you yourself have a particular cancer and have seen one of our clinical trials that you might be interested in pursuing you’re very welcome to get a referral to our Cancer Center and we would be happy to help.

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