The Value of Clinical Trials

Almost all cancer treatments performed today – from screening to palliative care – were approved and established only after multiple, intensive clinical trials.

For many patients, clinical trials provide opportunities to receive care that complement or are different than standard therapy. “Patients may have access to cancer treatments that are currently experimental and may not be available otherwise for many years,” says Shirish Gadgeel, M.D., associate director of Patient Experience and Clinical Care and chief of the Division of Hematology/Oncology.

Safety, benefits and risks

“Before potential treatments are studied in clinical trials, medical experts in laboratories carefully investigate the safety and effectiveness of each treatment,” Dr. Gadgeel says. “Then national and organizational regulatory groups extensively review the protocol, or rules and methods, for each clinical trial.”

Diversity matters

Only 3 to 5% of eligible adult patients in the U.S. are enrolled in cancer clinical trials.

“It is crucial to enroll more patients – particularly those in diverse populations – because cancer outcomes differ in various ethnic and racial groups,” Dr. Gadgeel says. “For example, triple negative breast cancer has a higher mortality rate in African American women. But unfortunately, they are under-represented in clinical trials.”

Henry Ford is currently involved in a community-based initiative to increase minority participation in clinical trials.

Evaluate participation

Participating in a clinical trial is voluntary. Before enrolling, patients review the treatment, research methods, consent form, and potential benefits and risks.

Only patients who feel completely comfortable and understand the potential benefits and risks should participate in clinical trials. Patients may end their participation at any time.

Explore enrollment

At any time before or even during cancer treatment, patients are invited to talk with their healthcare providers about participating in a clinical trial to evaluate the benefits of current treatments or new therapies.

“Although it is impossible to enroll every patient in a clinical trial, we believe every patient should be considered for one,” Dr. Gadgeel says.

Learn more about clinical trials at Henry Ford.

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