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Clinical trials and the vital role they play in furthering cancer research

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(BPT) - The world of health care is one of constant innovation and discovery. New drugs, treatments and ideas are needed to combat the various health problems Americans face every single day. It is an ever-evolving challenge, and as health concerns are conquered, one constant threat remains: Cancer.

According to the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO), cancer will be the leading cause of death by 2030. Even as advances in radiation, chemotherapy and surgical procedures have improved outcomes immensely, now more than ever, additional research is needed. This research comes from many sources, but the most effective way to obtain such valuable information is through clinical trials.

What is a cancer clinical trial?

Cancer clinical trials help researchers determine if a treatment option or drug is safe and effective against certain cancers. Today’s drug development strategies typically incorporate precision medicine approaches into their research platform. Clinical trials are traditionally conducted in four phases.

In phase I trials, a small group of participants are tested to determine the safety of a drug as well as the appropriate dosage and side effects. Phase II trials are similar but involve more participants and test how well a treatment works. Phase III trials enroll even more people—typically in the hundreds or thousands—and usually compare a trial drug to the current standard of care treatment. In many cases, this is the last step before the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approves the drug as a treatment option.

Finally, phase IV trials are undertaken after the FDA has approved a drug. This final stage continues to research the long-term side effects or benefits of drug use.

The latest trials spur the latest advancements

While many trials research specific drugs targeting specific cancers, the possibility exists to conduct such research in a broader format.

“The Targeted Agent and Profiling Utilization Registry (TAPUR) Study is the first-ever clinical trial by ASCO,” says Eugene Ahn, MD, medical director of clinical research at Cancer Treatment Centers of America (CTCA) at Midwestern Regional Medical Center (Midwestern) in Zion, Ill. “This trial aims to improve our understanding of how commercially available anti-cancer drugs perform on a broader range of cancers by matching drugs to tumors with specific genomic mutations that the drugs are designed to target regardless of their location in the body.”

Each of the targeted therapies included in the study has already been approved by the FDA to treat specific cancers. This trial will collect data on how these anti-cancer drugs perform on patients with advanced cancer types when used outside of their FDA-approved indications. The hope is that by studying these drugs—which are provided at no cost to the study participants—researchers will gain new insights on the drugs’ potential uses.

Taking an active role in a clinical trial

Clinical trials like TAPUR are important for the advancement of cancer care and treatment. If you are considering enrolling in TAPUR or any other clinical trial, its important you know that enrollment is voluntary and a decision between you and your medical oncologist. Ask questions to find out if enrolling in a trial is right for you.

CTCA at Midwestern is one of five CTCA sites and the first location in Illinois enrolling patients in the ASCO TAPUR trial. You can learn more about the TAPUR study by visiting clinicaltrials.gov. The study is registered on the site (NCT 02693535), which includes a list of inclusion/exclusion criteria and other information. You can also learn more by contacting the clinical trials team at clinicaltrials@ctca-hope.com or by calling 888-841-9129.