Join Pancreatic Cancer Clinical Trials
If you have been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, you may be wondering why you developed it in the first place. Although many prominent risk factors for pancreatic cancer have been identified – including smoking, diabetes, family history, and obesity – many people develop pancreatic cancer who have no risk factors at all. Pancreatic cancer clinical trials
Fortunately, research is underway with the goal of gaining a better understanding of how and why pancreatic cancer develops or doesn’t develop in people both with, and without, known risk factors.
Additionally, researchers are also working to develop newer and more effective methods of screening and diagnosis for pancreatic cancer, so that tumors can be detected at an earlier stage when they are more likely to respond to treatment.
What Will Pancreatic Cancer Clinical Trials Be Like?
When participating in a pancreatic cancer clinical trial, there are a few basic tests and procedures you may receive; however, the ultimate design of the particular study will determine which specific procedures you will undergo. Some of the following tests and procedures may be used during pancreatic cancer clinical trials:
- Physical exam
- Abdominal ultrasound
- Computed tomography (CT scan, or “CAT scan”) or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans. These imaging procedures are non-invasive and provide detailed pictures of areas inside your body.
- Positron emission tomography (PET) scan, which is an imaging procedure that uses a radioactive sugar injected into the blood through a vein in the arm. This substance attaches to cancer cells in the body, making them visible when viewed by a special camera.
- If the study is evaluating a new type of medication or vaccine, blood and/or urine tests may be performed to monitor how your body metabolizes the medication or how effectively your body has responded to the vaccine.
- Quality of life assessments to evaluate how your cancer is impacting your ability to perform activities of daily living.
- Pain assessments
Typical Protocol for Pancreatic Cancer Clinical Trials:
Current research is focused on new ways to detect and treat pancreatic cancer, as well as to develop more effective options for pain management and control of other symptoms. Genetic studies are also underway to gain a better understanding of how and why pancreatic cancer develops in some individuals but not in others. Examples of possible clinical trials include:
- A clinical trial designed to determine if a newly-developed drug that interferes with a cancer cell’s ability to grow can help patients with advanced pancreatic cancer live longer.
- A clinical trial designed to determine if a combination of surgery followed by chemotherapy (known as adjuvant chemotherapy) is more effective at preventing the recurrence of pancreatic cancer than treatment with surgery alone.
- A clinical trial designed to determine if standard chemotherapy given in combination with a newly developed chemotherapy drug is more effective than standard chemotherapy at a) decreasing the size of the pancreatic tumor following treatment and b) producing fewer side effects, including pain. Patients in this study might also be monitored to see which therapy has a greater (and more negative) impact on their quality of life.
- A long-term clinical trial designed to determine if otherwise healthy individuals who smoke and eat a high fat diet, and who also have a family history of pancreatic cancer, have a higher risk of developing the disease than those who do not have that specific combination of risk factors.
A brief word about randomized trials and placebos:
Many clinical trials involve the comparison of an investigational treatment to a “standard” treatment. Some studies determine which therapy a patient receives through a process known as randomization, in which patients are randomly assigned to receive either the investigational treatment or the standard treatment.
On occasion, with pancreatic cancer clinical trials, a trial will investigate the use of a standard treatment plus a new drug compared to standard treatment plus a placebo. Placebos are inactive or “sham” treatments that are identical in appearance to the active treatment but have no therapeutic value.
Placebos are necessary to help determine if adverse effects that occur during the clinical trial are the result of the investigational treatment or due to some other factor. They also allow researchers to measure the effects of the active treatment and observe what would have happened without it.
In rare instances where no standard therapy exists, or when a new drug is being evaluated for the first time in a specific cancer, the investigational treatment might be compared to a placebo alone. In these types of trials, those patients who are randomized to the placebo group do not receive an active treatment.
This is rarely done in cancer clinical trials; however it may occasionally be necessary from a scientific standpoint. Placebo-only trials will only be done when ethically appropriate and when patients have been adequately informed that they may end up receiving the placebo rather than the active treatment.
It is very important to note, however, that no one should ever participate in such a placebo trial when there is a widely available and highly effective standard treatment already in existence for their particular type of cancer and clinical situation.
Trial Eligibility and Medical Information Needed:
The type of clinical trial you may be eligible for often depends on many factors, including your disease stage, treatment history, and a variety of clinical findings. Therefore, it is important to know many details pertaining to your specific diagnosis when searching for clinical trials. Examples of the details you will want to have on hand include:
- The name, location, size, stage, and cell type of your cancer, as well as the locations of any metastases you have. Also know these details for any prior cancer you have had.
- Know your performance status, which estimates how well you perform normal activities of daily living. Examples: Karnofsky Performance Scale (KPS) and the ECOG scale.
- Know your treatment history, including chemotherapy, radiation therapy, immunotherapy, and/or surgery.
- Know your blood cell counts, liver function test results, and kidney function test results.
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