Clinical trials provide a way for prostate cancer victims to receive experimental treatments. As the name implies, clinical trials are performed to test the efficacy of a new drug or procedure. While researchers hope their new treatment will prove better than the current standard treatment, they offer no guarantees that it will. There are many reasons for prostate cancer patients to enter clinical trials. Some patients sign up because they really want to help science. Others have found themselves unable to tolerate the current treatments and hope that the experimental treatments will work better for them. Others have exhausted all the current treatments and view clinical trials as one final chance to prolong life. Before signing up for clinical trial, prostate cancer patients should understand a few things.
The Four Phases of Clinical Trials
Clinical Trials take part in four phases. The first phase involves only a few participants, usually those who have exhausted all other treatment options. The first phase is focused on the safety of a new treatment, such as identifying side effects and establishing a safe dose of medication, etc. The second phase expands the first phase to a much larger group. In addition to focusing on safety issues, scientists are now also concerned with effectiveness of the new treatment. The third phase is a controlled study. In this phase of clinical trials, prostate cancer patients are randomly assigned to receive either the new treatment, or the current standard treatment. The patients do not know which group they are in. In a double-blind study, even the researchers do not know. This phase checks to see if the new treatment is more effective than the current standard. The fourth phase studies long-term effects of the new treatment.
Prostate Cancer Clinical Trials: Research versus Control Group
When a prostate cancer patient enters a clinical trial in the third phase, he cannot be sure he will receive the experimental treatment. In fact, there is a 50% chance that he won’t. Many people shy away from clinical trials for this reason. This logic, however, is faulty. A patient participating in clinical trials has a 50% chance of receiving a new and potentially better treatment for his condition. A patient who does not participate in clinical trials has a 0% chance of receiving a new and potentially better treatment.
Finding Clinical Trials for Prostate Cancer
Before considering a clinical trial, the patient should first speak to his oncologist (cancer specialist) who will discuss the pros and cons and may be able to direct the patient to clinical trials.
If the oncologist is unaware of any clinical trials being conducted locally, the patient should check at the nearest teaching hospital–teaching hospitals often take part in clinical trials.