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Should I Join a Clinical Trial? Dispelling Some Common Myths about It.

ON January 13, 2014 by Samuel Lederma

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It’s fascinating to know that between the1500s to1800s, few people lived past their 40th birthday. Fortunately, advancements in medicine have allowed doctors to better diagnose illnesses and to develop effective drugs or procedures to cure them, thus increasing life expectancy.

That being said, modern medicine has a puzzle that it’s still trying to solve—cancer. While surgery and chemotherapy have helped millions of Americans live cancer-free, sometimes these procedures fail to cure people of this disease. As this article from PalmBeachDailynews.com reports though, a clinical trial offers hope to those at their wits’ end:

Knowing her [Fran Kamin’s] history, Dr. Daniel Spitz, her medical oncologist, encouraged Kamin to enroll in a clinical trial.

She entered a double-blind study in which subjects have a 67 percent chance of being given an experimental drug in addition to Herceptin, the standard of care for her type of metastatic cancer. She takes that pill every day.

Some patients receive the Herceptin and a placebo. A study nurse continually monitors her care and her response to the therapy. Kamin believes she is receiving the study drug in addition to Herceptin.

“One of the most common side effects is developing mouth sores and I wasn’t getting them,” she recalled. “But when we learned that two of the lesions had disappeared and the other, on my liver, had been reduced by 70 percent, we figured that I must be on the study drug,” Kamin said.

As the article shows, clinical trials allow cancer victims who have tried all other treatment options to test new drugs or procedures that can potentially cure them. Still, many people are wary of using unproven methods to treat their ailments. Below are two common misconceptions about clinical trials and the truth behind them:

Aren’t They Dangerous?

Clinical trials are basically experiments, so risk will always be involved. However, strict legal and ethical codes are implemented during clinical trials to minimize negative effects on volunteers. Aside from this, participants will be thoroughly briefed by the researchers and they can withdraw themselves at any time from the study.

What If I Get a Placebo?

In clinical trials, one group is given the experimental drug while the other gets a placebo, a practice that better gauges the efficacy of new medications. Some people think that getting the placebo means they won’t be getting any treatment at all and they have no chance of getting better. In reality though, the placebo group still gets standard treatment they would otherwise get, just not the new drug.

Indeed, no cancer breakthrough is possible without clinical trials. In fact, companies like Altus Research even conduct HPV studies since this virus is linked to cervical cancer.

(Article Information and Image from Misconceptions aside, clinical trials provide hope, can extend lives, PalmBeachDailynews.com, February 11, 2013)

CATEGORY: Info Article