Types of Cancer Clinical Trials, with Louis Weiner, MD

Last Updated: April 25, 2017

Louis Weiner, MD, introduces different types of clinical trials, including studies that focus on finding new treatments, side effects and supportive care, late effects and survivorship, and screening and prevention.

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Clinical Trials

Finding a Clinical Trial

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Cancer.Net®: Doctor-Approved Patient Information from ASCO®

Types of Cancer Clinical Trials

Louis Weiner, MD: There are a number of types of clinical trials that people can engage in that relate to cancer.

Studies that Focus on Finding New Treatments

Dr. Weiner: Now, when you have a clinical trial most often we're talking about cancer therapy studies and the best way of making things better for our patients and for our society is by developing better, safer and more effective therapies. And while we would like to think that some of that will be accomplished by doing a better job of matching patients with the treatment options that are currently available, we all understand that they will also require the new drugs against new targets and new combinations of targets are going to have to be developed in order to more effectively treat patients with cancer. So there might be clinical trials that a person might be invited to participate and that involves surgery followed by chemotherapy and/or radiation therapy, or there might be clinical trials combining a new drug or drug combination in combination with chemotherapy. If we're going to try something that's substantially newer and different than what the current standard of care is, the best way to know that it's the right thing to do for people is to conduct a clinical trial and demonstrate that it's as least as effective, if not more effective and that there's an acceptable side effect profile from the new approach.

Studies that Focus on Side Effects and Supportive Care

Dr. Weiner: I think it's pretty clear that we, as a field, underestimate the magnitude and general severity of side effects that our patients experience and that identifying ways to minimize those side effects, that may not be life-threatening but are misery-provoking is one of our most important challeges. And one of the things that I'm proudest of as an oncologist is that in my practicing lifetime I've seen so much progress and supportive care. So that our patients suffer much less from the rigors of the treatments they receive and certianly are living a much higher quality of life irrespective of how effective or ineffective the treatment for their cancer may be at any given point in time.

Studies that Focus on Late Effects and Survivorship

Dr. Weiner: At this point in time more than half of the people who are diagnosed with cancers are cured of their cancers. Many of these people are being treated with aggressive therapies be they surgical theropies, radiation theropies, chemotheropies, combinations, that have long-term side effects and we have people now living 20, 30, 40, 50, years following the definitive therapy that was curative of their cancer, who now are facing the side-effects, the long-term effects of those therapies. There are many different ways you can study this. There's a crushing psychological burden that many people face having been treated with cancer. Understanding that burden and thinking about ways to minimize it is very important. I believe that as we do a better job of curing our patients of cancer, we're going to have to consider these types of issues much more carefully in the future. And so I can certainly know I speak not only for myself but all my colleagues in recognizing the critical importance of survivorship research.

Studies that Focus on Prevention and Screening

Dr. Weiner: Many people recognize the critical importance of understanding ways to prevent cancer. How do we keep the problem from occurring in the first place? What is the necessary set of conditions that are required in order to prevent cancer? What's the contribution of genetic make-up? What's the contribution of lifestyle? Are there any foods that we should be eating or not eating? Are there any medicines we should take or not take in order to modify our risk? These are all the types of questions that are appropriately considered by clinical trials.

[Closing and Credits]

Cancer.Net®: Doctor-Approved Patient Information from ASCO®

ASCO's patient education programs are supported by Conquer Cancer Foundation of the American Society of Clinical Oncology. ConquerCancerFoundation.org  

Special Thanks:

Video Footage courtesy of: Rosewell Park Cancer Institute

Select photos courtesy of: Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center Georgetown University

Special Thanks: Carolyn B. Hendricks, MD, The Center for Breast Health

The opinions expressed in the video do not necessarily reflect the views of ASCO or the Conquer Cancer Foundation.

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