Importance of Studies
Clinical studies are essential to cancer research. Without clinical studies, new drugs and treatments could not be approved. No matter how promising a new treatment looks when tested with lab animals, it cannot be used to treat people until it has been carefully evaluated through the several phases of a clinical study.
Clinical studies test assumptions held by doctors and researchers to see if they are, in fact, true. And a clinical trial that disproves the effectiveness of a treatment, while disappointing, is just as important as a trial that proves the effectiveness of a new treatment. One example is the use of high-dose chemotherapy and bone marrow transplantation to treat advanced breast cancer.
Finding enough patients to conduct a clinical study is sometimes a problem for researchers. Nationally, only about four or five percent of cancer patients take part in clinical studies. There are many reasons for this low participation rate, including a lack of information about clinical studies on the part of both patients and their doctors, and myths about clinical trials.
Greater participation in clinical studies by cancer patients would probably speed up the search for new and more effective treatments for cancer. Greater participation, especially by older patients and minority groups, would make the group of patients in a clinical trial more representative of the broader population of people with cancer.
A clinical study done only with men, for example, may not tell doctors how women will respond to the treatment. A study done only with adults may not give reliable information on how children will respond.
Cancer is a disease of aging, but participants in clinical studies are on average quite a bit younger than the average age of all cancer patients. Enrolling more older cancer patients in clinical studies would result in more accurate information.