Seth Howard Berk, MD, a hematologist and medical oncologist with RCCA, reveals four facts that he shares with his patients when they ask about clinical trials.
First, a drug has been thoroughly tested well before it reaches the clinical trial stage. Pre-clinical trial testing involves looking at a drug’s effects on animals as well as human cells. This stage usually takes years of development. Also, the clinical studies have to be designed and conducted in accordance with rigorous ethical and safety criteria.
He also imparts the importance of not thinking of clinical trials as a last resort in treatment. While trials are typically suited for situations in which traditional therapy methods are not working for a patient, there is more evidence emerging of late-stage trials benefitting the patient when used early in the diagnosis process.
A myth that Dr. Berk debunks is the use of a placebo in cancer treatment. Some cancer patients are resistant to clinical trials because they fear there will be a placebo and they will suffer as a result. He says this is misinformation or something assumed from a patient’s memory of high school or college science experiments. In clinical trials, one group will be administered the trial agent while the other continues to have traditional therapy. There are rarely ever patients receiving zero care.
Lastly, Dr. Berk addresses the importance of clinical trials for cancer patients in general. Because of willing patients participating in more and more trials, doctors and patients can share in a community of knowledge and understanding, and, one day, a cure.
To read more about clinical trials, turn to “What cancer patients need to know about clinical trials: Insights from New Jersey oncologist/hematologist Seth Berk.”