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Myth vs. Truth: Clinical Trials

By Abby Henry Singh July 21, 2015Pearls of Wisdom Blog

Without clinical trials, cancer care cannot improve. All new cancer treatments must go through a heavily regulated clinical trial process to receive U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval. This process ensures that treatments are safe and effective. All the current treatments used for cancer were once investigated through a clinical trial. That is how doctors create the “standard of care,” which is what medical experts believe is the best way to treat a specific type of cancer.

But, without out participants, clinical trials just don’t work! Many cancer survivors are hesitant to participate in a clinical trial because of myths and misconceptions. Below learn the truth about many common clinical trials myths.

Myth: If I do a clinical trial, I might not get any treatment at all.

Truth: When there is an available treatment to help a cancer patient, that patient will always receive at least that level of treatment in a clinical trial. For example, in a randomized Phase III trial for a promising new chemotherapy drug, some patients would get the treatment under study while others get the standard of care. Or, some patients would get the current standard of care plus the treatment under study while others get just the current standard of care. Very few trials use placebos, or things that look like “real” treatments but have no effect. Most of these trials are early Phase I trials.

Myth: Clinical trials are not safe.

Truth: Requirements for clinical trials are strictly managed by the Food and Drug Administration. Before a drug is approved for testing in humans, the FDA ensures that it has gone through strict testing protocols in laboratory animals. Because the promising new treatment is being carefully studied, patients are also carefully monitored by health care professionals to see how they are doing and to watch for side effects. So, patients enrolled in clinical trials tend to talk with their health care professionals more often and are watched more carefully than patients not involved in a trial.

Myth: Clinical trials are a last resort.

Truth: Patients who are no longer helped by existing standard of care treatments may find that a clinical trial provides hope, but many patients begin their treatment program with a clinical trial because the treatment best suited to their situation is still being tested. Some clinical trials even exclude patients who have already received another form of treatment. In many cases, cancer research moves at a faster pace than the FDA treatment approval process. By being in a clinical trial, you may receive the added benefits of a new treatment before it is available to the public.

Myth: If I start a clinical trial, I have to finish it.

Truth: Participation in a clinical trial is completely voluntary. You may choose to withdraw from the trial at any time. If you qualify for a trial, your healthcare team will provide you will all the information about the trial. They will tell you, in a process called informed consent, how the trial will be conducted and the possible risks and benefits of the trial. You will then sign a document stating that you understand the details of the trial and that you are willing to participate. Even after signing the document of informed consent, you may withdraw from the trial at any time for any reason.

Myth: I don’t have cancer, so clinical trials won’t help me.

Truth: Everyone is touched by cancer in some way, whether you, a family member, or a friend is diagnosed. We all benefit from advancements in cancer care. Clinical trials do more than just test new drugs and treatments. Clinical trials also look for improved methods of screening and prevention.


Abby Henry Singh

Author Abby Henry Singh

Manger Content, Outreach, and Outcomes Abby Henry Singh is a native of Sevierville, Tennessee, and a graduate of Belmont University with a bachelor’s degree in English and history. She has been a member of PearlPoint Cancer Support for over 5 years. Previously, Singh was the Program and Outreach Manger for the Lupus Foundation of America, Mid-South Chapter where she worked to raise disease awareness and support those diagnosed with the disease through educational programs. She is a member of Alpha Gamma Delta sorority and the Belmont English alumni book club.

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