Around 3,000 people are diagnosed every year with mesothelioma cancer in the United States, with almost all of these cases being caused by work-related exposure to asbestos. This cancer is caused by inhaling or swallowing airborne asbestos fiber.
The asbestos fibers get lodged within the mesothelium tissue, a membrane lining that serves to protect body cavities such as the pleura, more commonly known as the thoracic cavity.
Mesothelioma can be difficult to diagnose because most its signs and symptoms can be mistaken for common illnesses, such as coughing, fever, and muscle weakness.
If you or a loved one has had some form of exposure to an asbestos-filled environment, and is diagnosed with mesothelioma cancer, it is best that you consult with an experienced oncologist right away for the best treatment options.
But if you have already exhausted the traditional options and none seem to be making any difference, then now is the time for you to consider other alternatives, such as taking part in a clinical trial.
Why Run Clinical Trials?
In its simplest term, a clinical trial is the application of cancer research studies. Doctors use clinical trials to test new medications, equipment, or methods on a volunteer patient in order to learn the extent of their effectiveness in the prevention, diagnosis, or treatment of cancer.
There’s always hesitation and uncertainty from the people who are at the receiving end of a clinical trial.
After all, the doctors who are going to implement the clinical tests will not clearly know the results beforehand.
But while there are considerable risks involved, it is only through clinical trials that experimental treatments are further developed and studied in comparison to other conventional cancer treatments.
By taking part in a clinical trial, you can potentially be the first person to benefit from a treatment. You also take on an active role in cancer research, and pave the way for other cancer-stricken patients to benefit as well.
The Phases of Clinical Trials
Clinical trials are divided into a series of steps called phases, with each phase created to answer different questions about the treatment. For example, an earlier phase may be done to determine the treatment’s side effects, while another phase will determine how it compares to other treatments.
Phase 0 aims to speed up the development and approval of a new drug that has been showing a lot of promise in research studies. The difference between phase 0 and the other phases of clinical trials is that the volunteer will not get any benefit out of it.
This is because the testing will come in the form of very small doses resulting to effects that are too negligible to matter. Phase 0 aims to find out how the human body reacts to the drug, and how the cancer cells inside the human body reacts to the same drug.
A phase 1 testing for a new drug is riskier compared to the later phases. Because of the risks involved, this phase typically involves a small number of cancer patients who are not seeing any improvements with the standard treatment they are currently receiving.
A phase 1 aims to find out the highest possible dose that can be given to a volunteer patient without any serious side effects. If phase 1 shows promising results and minor side effects, then the next batch of volunteers will be administered with a higher dosage.
This process will continue until the doctors come up with the right dosage that will most likely work among cancer patients.
A Phase 2 trial aims to find out the efficacy and safety of the new drug if given to a larger number of people. The results from a Phase 2 trial allow doctors to have more in-depth information on how well the new drug works.
A phase 3 involves a more detailed and thorough assessment of a drug that has been successful at a phase 2 trial. It will be administered to a larger number of people in order to confirm its effectiveness, and it will be compared and measured against the current standard treatments.
Once the treatment shows a positive result when used against a specific type of cancer, researchers can then apply for an FDA approval of the drug.
Considerations When Participating in a Clinical Trial
When it comes to participating in clinical trials, there is no right or wrong answer; ultimately, the decision will be up to the cancer patient on whether or not she agrees to a clinical trial.
The only certainty is that the patient must be informed of the benefits as well the drawbacks and risks involved during his or her participation.
How to Find a Clinical Trial
As with any health concern, you should consult with your doctor first, as he or she may have firsthand knowledge of clinical trials that are closely related to your condition. You may also inquire at medical centers, teaching hospitals, and nonprofit health organizations that are nearest you.
Clinical trials can offer cancer patients a brand new hope when all else fails, as well as access to new treatment that is not available to everyone.
Take note that there is always the possibility that the treatment may not work for you, although it may help others. Ultimately, whatever the results may be, your participation in a clinical trial will be for a greater cause towards the advancement of cancer research.