Rocky Mountain Cancer Centers has access to more than 70 clinical trials; has helped nearly 70 new drugs gain approval.
Throughout its 25 years, Rocky Mountain Cancer Centers has made research and the promise of new treatments a priority. Each year, on average, we enroll more than 6 percent of our patients in a clinical research trial, double the national average. Through our relationship with US Oncology Research, our patients have access to dozens of different clinical trials representing all major cancer types and all phases.
Some of those treatments target cancer cells, others turn on the body’s immune system, but all offer hope to patients every day. This month, Rocky Mountain Cancer Centers and the U.S. Oncology network join the American Association for Cancer Research to celebrate National Cancer Research Month in recognizing the contributions of our researchers, physicians, survivors, and patients.
Currently, Rocky Mountain Cancer Centers is participating in more than 70 clinical trials. Together with partners throughout the US Oncology network of treatment centers, RMCC researchers — and their patients — have helped nearly 70 new drugs gain approval for cancer treatment.
While clinical trials are where breakthroughs in treatment and new hope for cancer patients begin, many patients are reluctant to participate in a research study of a new treatment. In fact, a recent study found that only one-third of patients surveyed would be willing to participate in a clinical trial. Respondents cited various reasons for not wanting to participate: many worried about whether insurance would cover the cost; some didn’t want to be “guinea pigs;” still others worried about the safety of medications being tested.
There are many misconceptions out there, among both medical providers and patients, about clinical trials. One is that clinical trials are a last-ditch, Hail-Mary kind of effort. Not so, says David J. Andorsky, MD, a Rocky Mountain Cancer Centers oncologist who specializes in hematology, or blood diseases. At Rocky Mountain Cancer Centers, clinical research is an integral part of the treatment mission, and there are clinical trials available for all phases of the disease — including as initial treatment and prevention of recurrence, as well as for patients who have exhausted the standard therapies.
While participating in trials is often an option for RMCC patients, it’s always voluntary, never required. We know that some patients prefer standard therapies, and that’s absolutely fine.
Ensuring Patient Safety
Safety may be a concern for patients, but there are safeguards. Clinical trials are carried out in different stages, called phases. In a Phase I trial, the safety of a new treatment, which has already been studied in animals, is tested in people. In a Phase II trial, researchers collect more information about how a new treatment works. In Phase III trials, a new treatment is compared with the existing treatment that is the standard of care. Clinical trials are closely monitored and regulated through all the phases, so that if a significant side effect is detected, the trial may be paused for a closer review or even stopped. Likewise, if a new drug is performing exceptionally well, the trial may be stopped so the new treatment can gain speedy approval.
The majority of treatment trials are designed to evaluate a drug’s safety, but patients in clinical trials often are more closely monitored than patients receiving approved treatments. And, if there is any reason to believe the treatment is harmful, the patient can opt out at any time.
As for the cost of clinical trials, the experimental therapies often are provided at no cost to the patient, and usually the patient can continue receiving the treatment free as long as the trial continues. Most insurance companies cover the standard treatments and other therapies a patient may receive as part of a clinical trial.
Allen Cohn, MD, Medical Director of Research for Rocky Mountain Cancer Centers, says those who do choose to participate in clinical trials are “champions” who play a key role in advancing the fight against cancer. “We all owe them a debt of gratitude,” he says. “Patients not only get access to the most innovative therapies, they’re also doing their part to help all cancer patients who come after them. There’s nothing more hopeful than that.”
Watch a video about the life-saving and life-changing effects clinical trials can have for cancer patients, and learn more about the clinical trials currently underway at Rocky Mountain Cancer Centers.