Wanted: Cancer patients to save lives

In In The News by Barbara Jacoby

By: Rita Giordano

From: philly.com

Less than 5 percent of adult cancer patients take part in the clinical trials critical to finding new treatments, a network of patient advocates reported Wednesday.

The Cancer Support Community, an international group with chapters in major cities, released the numbers at a Philadelphia news conference that highlighted an ongoing campaign to increase awareness in the hope of reducing cancer deaths. The organization surveyed 506 patients and 81 caregivers about their beliefs, experiences, and information related to clinical trial participation.

“We know probably more than 20 percent may qualify for a clinical trial,” said Kim Thiboldeaux, the organization’s chief executive officer. Less than one-quarter of them enroll.

By comparison, more than 60 percent of children with cancer participate in clinical trials. Most children with cancer are treated in specialized oncology centers where trial participation is the norm, the organization said.

The majority of patients who took part in the adult survey said the most important reason to participate in a clinical trial was hope for a better chance at survival, for themselves and others. Improved quality of life was another significant consideration.

To increase participation, the report’s authors said, communication about clinical trials needs to be improved, the process explained better, and outreach to patients stepped up.

Wednesday’s announcement is part of a campaign spearheaded by the Obama administration to speed up progress in cancer research. President Obama put Vice President Biden, who lost his 46-year-old son, Beau, to brain cancer last year, in charge of the “Moonshot” effort.

Success will require more patients’ taking part in drug research, participants in Wednesday’s event said.

“I am alive today because of clinical trials,” said Ide Mills, 59, a stage 4 lung cancer patient who lives in Maplewood, N.J.

Mills was diagnosed five years ago and participated in a clinical trial. She said that her current medication would not be available had it not been for other patients’ participation in earlier trials.

“The number one problem in clinical trials is enrollment,” said Gerald Messerschmidt, director of the Clinical Research Center of Lankenau Institute for Medical Research.

One in four cancer research trials fails to enroll enough participants and is ended without results, said Aimee Tysarczyk, a spokeswoman for the Cancer Support Community.