Central PA Medicine Summer2020 - 29

daup h i n c m s .o rg

CLINICAL TRIALS
Spur the Latest Cancer
Tests and Treatments

I

n recent years, a great deal has changed in
clinical trials for cancer care - and the
patients who enroll in them. It used to be
that clinical trials were offered only to cancer
patients who had exhausted all other therapeutic
treatment options.

Another advance is that with genetic sequencing, we now can identify mutations and
alterations in a patient's specific cancer and use a
targeted therapy or immunotherapy drug to treat
that exact mutation. Drugs that target specific
mutations offer significant hope for patients.

Now that is no longer the case. The vast
majority of clinical trials are focused on testing
new drugs and new combination treatments,
with a focus on therapeutic intent. These
treatments can include surgery, radiation therapy,
chemotherapy, and immunotherapy.

Patients may not be aware that there are three
phases of clinical trials:

But in addition to therapeutic clinical trials,
we also have clinical studies focused on early
detection screening, prevention, and reducing
symptoms associated with cancer and cancer
therapy. We also have studies focused on improving the quality of life of our cancer patients.
In addition, people who are at high risk for
developing cancer may be asked to participate
in a clinical trial.
Clinical trials are incredibly valuable to both
researchers and patients. Investigators use clinical
trials to test new drugs and therapies that treat a
wide range of human cancers. Cancer researchers
work closely with clinicians to rapidly move
the most promising research results from their
labs into clinical trials, providing patients with
early access to new and innovative treatments.
All treatments in use today and considered
to be standard of care treatments were once
part of clinical trials. Many cancer centers try
to offer patients a clinical trial for every stage
of disease so they benefit of the latest research.

Phase 1 trials are for first-time testing of new
agents and/or combination treatments. The
goal of these studies is to establish the proper
dose and schedule.
Phase 2 trials are for testing of new agents
and/or combination treatments that look safe
and promising based on the Phase 1 trials. The
goal is to confirm the clinical efficacy of these
new therapies as well as to provide further
information on their safety.

study's eligibility criteria, including blood work,
a past medical history, normal organ function,
and imaging of their tumor.
Once enrolled and receiving the drug, patients
are assessed regularly to ensure that side effects
are minimal, they are tolerating the treatment,
and the cancer is responding to the treatment.
One benefit of participating in a clinical trial is
the ongoing monitoring patients receive from
research nurses or coordinators for side effects.
Paying for clinical trial medicine should not
be a concern for patients because standard-ofcare drugs are typically covered by insurance.
The cost of experimental drugs is covered
by the clinical trial, as is the cost of any extra
imaging studies and blood tests that are needed.
There should be minimal out-of-pocket costs
to patients enrolled in clinical trials.

Phase 3 trials compare new agents and/or
combination treatments to the standard of
care treatments.

The key to a good patient experience is an
open dialogue with the patient's oncologist.
Patients can ask if there are any trials they can
participate in. Likewise, if the oncologist offers
Clinical trials are critical in moving prom- a clinical trial, patients and their families can
ising new drugs from the research stage to the ask questions and request education resources
patient's bedside.
to assist with their decision. In addition, the
National Cancer Institute provides a wealth
In the past, clinical trials used to take 10 to 15 of resources to help patients find clinical trials
years before drugs were approved by the Food and learn more.
and Drug Administration (FDA) for treating
patients. Now drug approvals have accelerated
Research has shown that many new treatments
to where it may take only about one to three are helping patients live longer. Early phase
years to move from Phase 1 testing to FDA clinical trials provide tremendous hope even for
approval for use every day in clinical practice. patients who have been treated with standard
treatments, and newer therapies are showing
Patients who enroll in clinical trials undergo impressive responses.
a thorough evaluation to ensure they meet the

For more information on current trials at UPMC Hillman Cancer Center, visit UPMCPinnacle.com/ClinicalTrials.
Central PA Medicine Summer 2020 29


http://www.dauphincms.org http://www.UPMCPinnacle.com/ClinicalTrials

Central PA Medicine Summer2020

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