Advice to Parents
Seattle Children's, an SCCA parent organization, sees about 200 new pediatric cancer patients a year. About half of these take part in clinical trials, according to Dr. Russ Geyer, a pediatric oncologist with Seattle Children's and SCCA.
Clinical trials typically test new cancer therapies, including combinations of surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, immunotherapy and bone marrow transplantation.
When talking to parents about clinical trials, Dr. Geyer says he tries to be "extraordinarily clear" about the possible risks as well as the possible benefits to their child. "We approach most families with the idea that we have an opportunity to cure the child [with a clinical trial]. But it is not a guarantee."
It is helpful for parents to realize, Dr. Geyer adds, that most of the clinical trials for childhood cancers are national trials. Their child would get the same treatment and the same opportunities to enroll in these trials no matter where in North America the child was treated.
Parents need to be sure that they understand what is different about the treatment their child would receive in a trial versus receiving the standard of care, as well as what parts of the trial are investigational. Dr. Geyer says staff at Children's will answer parents' questions and help them understand the differences.
Parents will want to know as much as they can about any trial they are considering for their child, and when making the decision, Dr. Geyer says, "I would make certain that I understood clearly what additional risks my child might be taking by participating in a clinical trial. If we knew that a new treatment was the best treatment we wouldn't be doing a clinical trial. But the clinical trials we offer are based on the best available evidence."