Clinical Trials for Breast Cancer
Should you or shouldn't you? Weighing the pros and cons of joining a breast cancer clinical trial.
By Gina Shaw
Reviewed By Charlotte Grayson
Only about 3% of women with breast cancer take part in clinical trials, according to Y-ME, the national breast cancer organization.
This low level of clinical research participation may be stalling treatment progress. The fewer women who join clinical trials, the longer it takes to get data about whether a new treatment is an improvement over existing ones.
Should you join a breast cancer clinical trial? If you do, how can you choose the best one for you?
"Patients should be biased toward clinical trials," says Clifford Hudis, MD, Chief of the Breast Cancer Medicine Service at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York. "If you [are seen at a medical] center and they have a trial for which you're appropriate, you should seriously consider it."
What are the advantages of participating in a clinical trial?
Does that mean that there are no down sides to participating in clinical trials? Of course not. "Any time you're trying a new treatment or one with which we have less experience, there's always some potential for greater risk," says Eric Winer, MD, director of the Breast Program at Boston's Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.
Potential negatives include:
You may think that if you're not being treated at a major, nationally known cancer center such as Sloan-Kettering or Dana-Farber, you won't have the opportunity to participate in clinical trials. Not true.
"Many smaller community hospitals and cancer centers have trials available to them, either on their own or as part of larger cooperative groups," says Winer.
Before signing up for a clinical trial, find out as much as possible about what's involved. Here are some important questions to ask, according to Clinicaltrials.gov -- a web site sponsored by the National Institutes of Health:
Some of your best sources for finding clinical trials:
Remember, the current "gold standard" treatments that you're benefiting from now wouldn't be available if other women hadn't joined clinical trials.
"I don't think we can say this enough. By participating in a trial, women with breast cancer are adding to knowledge that will help countless other women in the future," says Winer.
Published May 2005.
SOURCES: Eric Winer, MD, director, Breast Program, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Boston. Clifford Hudis, MD, chief, Breast Cancer Medicine Service, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, New York City. Y-ME, the National Breast Cancer Organization, Chicago. National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Md.
©1996-2005 WebMD Inc. All rights reserved.
Last Editorial Review: 5/20/2005 7:18:44 PM