4 Myths About Cancer and Clinical Trials

There are a lot of myths that circulate online about cancer and clinical trials for new cancer treatments. The reality of clinical trials should make them a consideration for any patient.

Why are Cancer Clinical Trials Important?

Participation in clinical trials is desperately needed. All treatments now available were approved through a clinical trial. Without clinical trials we can’t get the needed insight to lead us to better ways to prevent, detect and understand the disease. Most importantly, they can help others and future generations of individuals with the same disease.

The truth is that while we don’t know the cure for cancer, in the past twenty years we have made huge leaps in understanding cancer and how it works. New treatments like biosimilars can make treating certain aspects of cancer, like preventing infection during chemotherapy, a lot easier. Though we still have a lot to discover about cancer, as of December 2019, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration had approved a total of 47 immunotherapies that together cover almost every major cancer type.

Still, many people might have reservations about participating in a clinical trial because they have some misconceptions about the process.

Myth #1: I will have to stop my regular cancer treatment.

While it is true that many clinical trials need participants to not be taking any kind of treatment medications, many cancer clinical trials do not have that stipulation. In many cases, stopping treatment could result in the cancer rapidly spreading.

Instead, many cancer trials try to find people that are taking a specific cancer treatment and take into account drug interactions that may occur. But if you are worried that you will have to stop taking a treatment to participate in a trial, that may not be the case.

Myth #2: Clinical trials are for patients who have no other options

Clinical trials are not just for the people with no other options. There are clinical trials for patients at varying stages of diagnosis or history of treatment. Often times, participation in a clinical trial can mean they may have access to new research options before they are widely available. Clinical trials enable each patient to play an active role in his or her healthcare.

It’s important to consider enrolling in a clinical trial at diagnosis and during every treatment decision as timing can be crucial to a patient’s treatment plan.

Myth #3: Clinical trials are more expensive than regular treatment

There are two types of costs associated with clinical trials – routine medical care costs and research costs. Routine medical care costs, or patient care costs, include any treatment, test or procedure that patients would typically receive if they participate in a clinical trial or just continue with their regular treatment.

Federal law requires most health insurance plans cover the routine care costs of a clinical trial. Research costs are those related to taking part in a trial, which are covered by the trial sponsor. Sponsors do not want to create a hardship for patients so participating in a clinical trial often costs the same as regular treatment.

Myth #4: Patients are treated like guinea pigs, not people

Patient safety is the top priority in all clinical trials. One of the protections in place is the informed consent — a process required by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) that makes sure patients are given complete information about the clinical trial. Participants must read and sign an informed consent form before any investigational treatment or testing related to a clinical trial can begin. Each research institution or hospital also has an independent committee, called an Institutional Review Board (IRB), that reviews and monitors clinical trials. Part of their job is to protect participants from false advertising or misleading information.

When considering treatment options for cancer, patients can quickly be overwhelmed by the choices that are available. Clinical trials can seem too risky or expensive, but this is not accurate to the reality of participation. Every cancer treatment currently on the market has gone through a clinical trial at some point, and often participation means patients can get access to life-saving treatments months to years in advance.

We are constantly trying to connect patients to the right clinical trials from our partners. Sign up for our email list to be the first to find out if a clinical trial is enrolling in your area and if it might be a fit for you.