it comes to fighting cancer, access to clinical trials for patients is
key. For many, clinical trials are often the only option when standard
treatments are not available or no longer producing positive results.
trials offer the possibility of tomorrow’s treatments today,"
says Dr. James Thomas.
Thomas is the
associate director of translational research and the medical director
of the clinical trials office at Froedert & the Medical College of
Wisconsin’s Cancer Center. He says clinical trials are necessary in
the ongoing war against all types of cancer.
process is being made in cancer treatment. There have been more than
20 new drugs brought to market alone in the last year three
years," he says.
While there is a
lot of focus and research on the most common cancer types, such as
lung, prostate, breast, colon and pancreatic, Thomas says that’s not
the determining factor when it comes to clinical trials, that science
is the driving force.
some cancers that even though they are quite uncommon, because we
discover a new pathway or a new target, that they become a hot area of
interest," he adds.
There are three
phases involved in a clinical trial before any new treatment can be
approved for use on the general public. Phase I involves taking a
treatment for the first time and trying it on humans. This involves
making sure drug dosages are correct and that toxicity levels are
Once the dosage
is set, phase II involves taking a small number of people with that
cancer and giving them the treatment to see how well it works.
III involves determining if the new treatment works better then the
old standard. This usually involves hundreds, if not thousands, of
patients at a number of cancer centers around the country. If the
trial passes all three phases, the new standard is adopted.
cancer is a big problem. We’ve make steady improvement in the last
two decades, but to have further improvements it’s going to take
continued effort in development and doing clinical trials to prove
what works and what doesn’t work," says Thomas.
Katie Wulff is
the associate director of clinical research at the University of
Wisconsin Carbone Cancer Center in Madison. She says the new cancer
centers like the UW Cancer Center at ProHealth Care in Pewaukee, which
opened in August, can provide more access to clinical trials that are
definitely benefit people in the Milwaukee area," says Wulff.
She also says
advances in technology are playing a key role in making sure patients
have the information they need to make informed decisions.
mandates now on public websites and public databases to advertise
clinic trails — not only the ones that are available, but once
trials are up and running and once results come through," Wulff
Thomas, most cancer patients get diagnosed in their 50s, 60s and 70s,
which means clinical trials are vital for an aging population. He says
that at any given time there are approximately 150 clinical trials
going at his cancer center. "Our goal is to have a trial for most
people who carry a cancer diagnosis."