Head & Neck

Exploring Clinical Trials

Within the past few years, advances in medical research have given hope to many people diagnosed with head and neck cancer. Many advancements came from clinical trials, which are research studies that investigate new therapies with the help of people who volunteer to participate. A number of standard-of-care therapies used today to treat or slow disease progression were once researched, fine-tuned and approved through clinical trials.

One insight discovered through clinical trials was the need for a multidisciplinary treatment approach that combines physicians, nutritionists, reconstructive surgeons, psychologists, rehabilitation specialists and dentists. Patient care improves when doctors work together across specialties.

More research is needed to improve early diagnosis, develop more effective therapies and improve overall survival rates. Many trials for head and neck cancer are currently underway, with progress being made. Researchers are investigating new drug therapies, including immunotherapy, targeted therapy and multidrug combinations; radiofrequency thermal ablation; gene therapy; proton therapy; surgical techniques; biomarkers; screening methods, human papillomavirus (HPV) prevention and vaccination; improved side effect control and other ways to improve a patient’s quality of life.

More people are considering clinical trials earlier in their treatment process because they may offer access to treatments that aren’t yet available to the public. In some situations, a clinical trial may offer the best chance for a positive outcome, so talk with your doctor about this option.

What are Clinical Trials?

  • Clinical trials are medical research studies that are frequently used to test new therapies.
  • All participants enrolled are volunteers.
  • The details of a trial are outlined in the Informed Consent form, which participants must sign before beginning a trial.
  • Participants can withdraw from a clinical trial at any time for any reason.

Myths vs facts

A clinical trial is a last resort. In some situations, a clinical trial may offer the best option among treatments you’re considering and may even be the first option to consider.

If my doctor doesn’t bring it up, I can’t participate. Thousands of trials take place at the same time, making it very difficult for your doctor to know about every trial. That’s why you’re encouraged to search for a clinical trial on your own.

I’ll have to travel to a major city to take part in a trial. Not necessarily. Although some people travel to take advantage of some trials, more are available all over the country in hospitals, treatment centers and doctor’s offices.

Once I start the trial, I have to finish it. Participation is always voluntary. You may choose to leave the trial at any time, for any reason, and opt for standard-of-care treatment.

I’m too old to be in a clinical trial. Seniors may respond differently to treatment and may develop different side effects. Having them enrolled in a trial helps researchers develop the right treatment for older people.

Benefits of Participation

  • Possible access to leading-edge treatments that aren’t yet available for your type or stage of disease.
  • Higher level of care because you will be closely monitored by your oncologist and the clinical trial medical team.
  • Being an active partner in your own care.
  • Knowing you are contributing to the future of cancer care.

How to Find a Clinical Trial

  • Ask your doctor about available trials for which you may qualify.
  • Search online. Start with this list of clinical trial sites. Depending on your diagnosis, there could be hundreds. Ask friends and family to help.
  • Have your exact diagnosis, pathology report and treatment details available to see if you meet a trial’s criteria.
  • Discuss possible trials with your doctor to determine whether they are an option for you.

Questions to Ask Your Doctor

  • Should I consider a clinical trial?
  • What tests and treatments are involved?
  • Is travel required to participate?
  • Will you continue to manage my care?
  • Will it affect my daily life, such as my ability to work?
  • How long will the trial last?

Clinical Trial Sites

 

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