The DFW Hospital Council posts guest blogs by Associate Members. The following was provided by the Cancer Support Community North Texas and Mary Crowley Cancer Research.
By Dr. James Strauss, Clinical Scientific Director, Mary Crowley Cancer Research and Mirchelle Louis, CEO of Cancer Support Community North Texas
More treatment options are available to cancer patients than ever before. Treatment is no longer about choosing a single path; rather, with research and innovative therapies rapidly evolving, treatment may include several courses of action that complement each other. Cancer clinical trials are a great example.
For years, clinical trials were stigmatized as being only for patients facing later-stage cancer and searching for needle-in-a-haystack solutions. Now, thousands of trials exist – and the numbers continue to grow – and patients are being encouraged to consider a trial earlier in their diagnosis as a complement to their primary treatment.
This reality is why two, Dallas-based nonprofits – Cancer Support Community North Texas and Mary Crowley Cancer Research – partnered in May, as part of National Cancer Research Month, to put a spotlight on debunking the myths of clinical trials and to encourage more people to explore their clinical trial options.
The organizations have joined forces to bridge a gap between their two communities of cancer patients: those participating in clinical trials and needing whole-person social and emotional support to help them along their journey, and those receiving whole-person support who may be unaware of clinical trials available to them.
“We want cancer patients and their families to have the information they need to weigh the options available to them including participation in clinical studies,” says Dr. James Strauss, Clinical Scientific Director, Mary Crowley Cancer Research.
“Our goal is to remove the mystery surrounding clinical trials and offer patients who have already walked through our welcoming red doors – or who will in the future – easy-to-access information so they know their options and continue to fuel hope,” says Mirchelle Louis, CEO of Cancer Support Community of North Texas.
A QUICK PRIMER
What are clinical trials? Clinical trials for cancer are research studies that compare the most effective known treatment for a specific type or stage of cancer with a new approach. This can be a new drug, or combination of drugs or a different way of using established therapies. There are trials that involve new approaches to surgery and radiation therapy. There are clinical trials for every type of cancer. While many trials focus on late stage disease, there are also trials to prevent cancer, improve early diagnosis, stop the cancer from coming back, reduce side effects or improve quality of life.
What are the biggest myths about clinical trials? Most often, patients and their caregivers are concerned with mention of clinical trials, as they assume it means the worst. The reality is that clinical trials can be an option at every stage of cancer. Mary Crowley Cancer Research, for example, has access to hundreds of Phase 1 and Phase 2 clinical trials.
Their advice: Connect with your treatment team and discuss potential clinical trial options as a complement to existing treatment or perhaps if a certain treatment isn’t working. Even if you aren’t ready to participate in a clinical trial yet, the earlier you consult with Mary Crowley in your cancer journey about your treatment options, the quicker they will be able to enroll you onto a trial when the time comes.
Another myth is that an organization like Mary Crowley Cancer Research replaces a patient’s regular oncologist. Instead, Mary Crowley works in tandem with your oncologist to keep them informed of your cancer trials progress to help make decisions regarding next steps. Along those same lines, a patient doesn’t have to wait for their oncologist to refer them to Mary Crowley; the patient can always reach out and the team will determine if any trials are a good fit.
For patients looking to learn more about specific trials that may be available to them, Mary Crowley Cancer Research has developed an “Active Clinical Trial” app (https://www.marycrowley.org/physician/learn-about-our-clinical-trials-app/) that provides patients and the public with an ever-growing list of available cancer clinical trials. The app is available for free and searchable with just a few clicks.
For patients looking to learn more about clinical trials – how do they work, when to consider them, and how they fit into treatment and emotional support for the “whole person,” Cancer Support Community nationally offers a variety of resources through their website within a “Frankly Speaking About Clinical Trials” section at https://www.cancersupportcommunity.org/learn-about-cancer-topics/cancer-clinical-trials.