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Published on June 20, 2017

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Cancer Clinical Trials – Myths Debunked

Did you know that today’s commonly used and trusted medical interventions – such as medications, vaccines and even surgical procedures – were once part of a clinical trial?

Clinical trials – also known as clinical research studies – have played an important role in the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) approval process for more than 50 years. Yet, many misconceptions and misunderstandings still surround them, especially when it comes to cancer care.

Today, we’d like to help debunk three of those myths.

MYTH: Clinical trials are only available for treatment.

FACT: Clinical trials are available across the spectrum of cancer care – from prevention and screening to diagnosis and treatment.

Researchers not only look for more effective ways to treat cancer, but also better ways to prevent and diagnose cancer and reduce side effects through clinical trials.

For example, at Avera Cancer Institute you’ll find a wide variety of clinical trials for:

  • Cancer prevention
  • Cancer screening and diagnosis
  • Cancer-related symptoms and side effects
  • Compassionate use
  • Treatment options, including chemotherapy, radiation, genomic therapy, immunotherapy and more

Avera is the only cancer center in South Dakota to offer trials for bone marrow transplant, intraoperative radiation therapy (IORT) for breast cancer, Avera investigator-initiated genomic therapy trials for breast cancer, ovarian cancer, lung cancer and metastatic solid tumors, and the GRAIL blood test for cancer screening.

Avera also participated in research for Videssa Breast– the first protein-based blood test of its kind to provide early and accurate detection of breast cancer. This test is now available commercially, including at Avera.  

In addition, observational studies, such as the Breast Cancer Collaborative Registry, aim to collect information for the development of future research and medical breakthroughs.

MYTH: When it comes to cancer treatment, clinical trials are only offered as a last alternative.

FACT: Clinical trials are available for treating all stages of cancer.

No matter what stage of cancer, clinical trials may offer more effective options for specific circumstances than the current standard of care provides. That’s why your Avera cancer care team will determine whether or not you may be eligible to participate in a clinical trial from the onset. If so, it’ll be included as one of your treatment options.

“Clinical trials are very important,” says Luis Rojas, MD, a gynecologic oncologist at Avera Cancer Institute. “The best way to describe their importance is to say that if I ever get cancer, I’ll participate in a clinical trial if I can. They open new doors of treatment options to the patients – options that are potentially better than standard therapy. They also provide the information needed to forward the field of cancer treatment. The reason we’re more effective at treating cancer today is because of clinical trials that took place 10-20 years ago.”

MYTH: I might only receive a placebo, or “sugar pill,” if I enroll in a clinical trial.

FACT: If you enroll in a cancer treatment clinical trial, you’ll always receive at least the gold standard of care.

If you or a loved one is eligible and willing to participate in a clinical trial for cancer treatment, you’ll always receive at least the current gold standard of care. Any investigational drugs or placebos that are part of the study are added to the standard of care regimen – not as a replacement for the standard of care.

Hope for the Future

As with treatment of any kind, clinical trials offer hope, but no guarantee. That’s why it’s important to learn as much as you can about becoming a participant.

However, one thing you can count on is the fact that your participation will benefit future patients by advancing health care research.

“Our clinical trial patients are absolutely remarkable,” says Cheryl Ageton, RN, Cancer Research Manager at Avera Research Institute. “We often hear them say, ‘If this will help somebody else, I’m happy to do it.’ Their selflessness during such a difficult time is amazing.”

Learn more about cancer research and clinical trials available at Avera Cancer Institute.

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