Clinical Trials: Building Better Health Outcomes

By: Joan Stewart, RT(T), BA HCA Clinical Services Project Coordinator, TCCC

If you or a loved one are faced with a cancer diagnosis you want the best care possible whether it’s a simple skin lesion or a life-threatening brain tumor. The question for the physician is what is the best care or course of treatment for this cancer type and your overall condition? At these moments, and in today’s ever changing oncology environment, physicians rely on guidelines developed by good clinical evidence. We call this evidence-based medicine and it assures your care is based on solid research and results.

Good clinical evidence is developed by medical research that involves people like you. It might be a review of years of medical evidence gathered by a long running epidemiology study like the Nurse’s Study (www.nurseshealthstudy.org). Or it could be the result of a clinical trial created to test a promising treatment that has come from work in a lab such as that at PNNL.

Clinical trials are the process used to compare a new drug or treatment element to an existing ‘best care’ treatment guideline. For example: If drug A after surgery has shown the best results to date, what would happen if we added new Drug B to the program? Would we add Drug B before surgery or after surgery in combination with Drug A? The clinical investigators must define the trial to compare the new drug or treatment without eliminating the current best care scenario. If it offers better health, either short term or long term, without significant harm it can be added to the guidelines. Thus clinical trials evaluate the effects of a new intervention on health outcomes.

You may never be faced with the decision to participate in a clinical trial. If you should, we would like you to carefully consider the risks and possible benefits. There are always many measures in place to protect the safety of people who take part in clinical trials. Participants are closely observed for safety concerns and side effects throughout the study. Participants always have the right to withdraw their participation at any time. Should you or your loved one participate in a clinical trial?

Let’s look at the potential benefits:

  • You may help others by contributing to knowledge about new drugs, treatments or procedures.
  • You may gain access to new drugs, treatments or procedures before they are widely available.
  • You will receive regular and careful medical attention from a team of doctors and other health care professionals.

Now the possible drawbacks:

  • There may be unexpected, unpleasant and/or serious side effects from the experimental elements.
  • The new experimental element may or may not be better than the standard of care.
  • Clinical trials often require more time and attention than the standard treatment would.

Your Tri-Cities Cancer Center partners with the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance and the Fred Hutchison Cancer Research Center to offer the citizens in our community a variety of clinical trials. Please check our website for a listing of trials currently enrolling.

References:
www.cancer.gov/research/areas/clinical-trials
www.seattlecca.org/clinical-trials

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