Everyone wants a cure for cancer. There will never be one thing that will cure cancer overnight. Instead, new medications, therapies and different ways of giving radiation therapy will be discovered in small steps. There is only one way to know if the new medications or therapies are going to work, and that is for patients to participate in clinical trials.
Clinical trials test new treatments or a group of existing treatments for people with cancer and often lead to advances in cancer treatments. These advances can include improved cure rates, improved cancer control and survival rates for with incurable cancer, or improved safety and quality of life for patients receiving cancer treatments.
Many of today's treatments are the result of what we learned from clinical trials in the past and, in many respects, all advances in cancer outcomes seen over the past decades have been achieved as a result of clinical trials.
Examples of these advances include the high cure rate for advanced testicular cancer, most cancers that arise in children, and Hodgkin’s lymphoma in young adults. As well, improvements in cure rates for breast cancer and colorectal cancer after surgery, now higher than at any time in the past, have been due to clinical trials testing new ways of combining treatments after surgery.
For those with breast, colorectal, ovarian and prostate cancers that have recurred or spread, disease control and survival times continue to improve dramatically with each treatment advance. As well, patients with conditions that previously had no specific treatments to offer, such as kidney cancer that has spread or reducing the risk of recurrence of non small cell lung cancer after surgery, now have a variety of options to consider as a result of clinical trial results for these cancers.
All successes in cancer treatments are due to the many people and families who have participated in clinical trials in the past. Because information is collected and analyzed about each patient who enters a trial, that information can be and is used to help other patients that come later. The Canadian Cancer Society website includes information on some important clinical trials that have changed how cancer is treated.
Ask your doctor or nurse about clinical trials that might be helpful to you, or see Nova Scotia Clinical Trials for more information.