Join Clinical Trials for Bladder Cancer
It is estimated that over 73,000 cases of bladder cancer will be diagnosed in the United States in 2012. If you have been diagnosed with bladder cancer, you may be interested in participating in a clinical trial in order to receive a cutting edge medication or surgical procedure, or simply participate in hopes that the information learned from the trial – regardless of what it is investigating – might one day be of benefit to future bladder cancer patients.
Fortunately, there are clinical trials for bladder cancer investigating a variety of topics pertaining to the condition, including new treatment options. Some research is working to better understand the genetic characteristics of bladder cancer and identify if certain DNA changes can help to predict the prognosis of patients with bladder cancer.
Other research is evaluating new testing methods for bladder cancer screening, such as urine tests that identify substances that might indicate an individual has bladder cancer.
People who are diagnosed with bladder cancer have an increased risk of their cancer recurring, as well as developing cancer in other parts of their urinary system. In turn, researchers are currently evaluating if certain vitamins and dietary supplements, as well as chemotherapy drugs, can reduce the risk of the cancer returning.
What Will Clinical Trials for Bladder Cancer Be Like?
When participating in a bladder 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. The following tests and procedures are often used during clinical trials for bladder cancer:
- Physical exam
- Urine test to determine the presence of sugar, protein, red blood cells, and white blood cells
- Blood tests
- Examination of urine under a microscope to check for abnormal cells
- A procedure known as cystoscopy, which involves inserting a thin, lighted tube with a tiny camera on the end into the bladder to view the organ and/or to remove a tissue sample.
- Imaging procedures such as x-rays of the kidneys, ureters, and bladder. These x-rays will often involve injection of a non-toxic dye into the vein, which then moves through the kidneys, ureters, and bladder allowing doctors to identify any possible blockages.
- Computed tomography scan (CT scan, or “CAT scan”), which takes detailed pictures of areas inside the body.
- Quality of life assessments that evaluate how much of an impact your cancer is having on your daily life
Typical Bladder Cancer Clinical Trial Protocol:
Currently, research related to bladder cancer spans a wide range of topics. Specific examples might include the following:
- A study designed to see injection of a modified virus into the bladder can selectively infect and kill bladder cancer cells, leaving healthy tissue untouched.
- A clinical trial evaluating the effectiveness of chemotherapy combined with a new drug that prevents the growth of blood vessels that allow tumors to grow.
- Studies designed to see if supplementation with the mineral selenium can help prevent the recurrence of bladder cancer.
- Studies that involve providing tissue samples through biopsies, so that genetic testing can be done to help better understand common mutations seen in bladder cancer cells.
- A trial designed to evaluate the association between the diabetes drug pioglitazone and the risk of developing bladder cancer.
A brief word about randomized trials and placebos:
Many clinical trials involve the comparison of an investigational treatment to an existing or “standard” treatment for the cancer. The exact therapy (i.e., investigational or standard) that each patient receives in such a trial is usually determined through a process known as randomization, in which patients are randomly assigned to receive either the investigational treatment or the standard treatment.
Sometimes, 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 to the active treatment; however they have no therapeutic value.
The purpose for using a placebo is to be certain that any adverse effects that occur during the clinical trial are actually the result of the investigational treatment and not some other factor. In these types of trials, all patients receive the standard treatment, while those randomized to the investigational treatment also receive the investigational drug.
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 clinical trials for bladder cancer, however, and is only done when it is necessary from a scientific standpoint, is ethically appropriate, and when patients have been adequately informed that they may receive the placebo.
Therefore, it is important to understand that if you are interested in participating in a trial that involves the use of a placebo alone (i.e., without standard treatment because none exists), you may end up receiving the placebo rather than the active treatment being investigated. Often times, patients are reluctant to join a trial that involves the use of a placebo for fear that they will not receive an active treatment.
While that may occasionally be the case, individuals who receive placebos are necessary to clinical research because their responses during the study allow researchers to better measure the effects of the active treatment being studied, and help the researchers observe what would have happened without the active treatment.
It is also important to understand that it is not appropriate for an individual to participate in a placebo-controlled trial when there is a widely available and highly effective standard treatment already in existence for their cancer.
Trial Eligibility and Medical Information Needed:
The type of clinical trial you may be eligible for often depends on whether you have been newly diagnosed with cancer, or if you have already received treatment. In addition, eligibility may also be determined based on the stage of your cancer.
Therefore, it is important to know the exact details of your cancer diagnosis when searching for clinical trials, i.e. clinical trials for bladder cancer, of potential interest. Specific details you will want to make note of and have on hand include the following:
- The official name of your cancer (e.g., transitional cell carcinoma of the bladder)
- Knowledge of where your cancer first started. For example, if you have bladder cancer that spread to the kidneys, it is still considered bladder cancer.
- Know your cancer’s cell type. This information can be located in your pathology report.
- Know the size of your tumor.
- Know the locations of any and all metastases that have been diagnosed.
- Know the stage of your cancer. This describes the extent of your cancer, and whether it has spread to other sites in the body. Each individual cancer has its own staging system, so be sure to know and understand the staging system specific to bladder cancer.
- Know your prior history of cancer (e.g., if you were diagnosed with lung cancer prior to your diagnosis of bladder cancer, be sure to have all the details pertaining to that diagnosis as well).
- Know your current performance status, which is an assessment performed by your doctor to determine how well you are able to perform normal activities of daily living. Two common scales used to evaluate the performance of cancer patients include the Karnofsky Performance Scale (KPS) and the ECOG scale.
- Know what treatments you have already received for your cancer. Examples might include chemotherapy, radiation therapy, immunotherapy, and/or surgery.
- Know your bone marrow function test results, including your white blood cell count, platelet count, and hemoglobin/hematocrit.
- Know your liver function test results, including bilirubin and transaminases.
- Know your kidney function (also referred to as renal function) test result, which includes serum creatinine.
Suggested Search Terms:
“bladder cancer chemotherapy,” “bladder cancer surgery,” “metastatic bladder cancer,” “bladder cancer smoking,” “bladder cancer recurrence,” “neoadjuvant chemotherapy bladder cancer,” “bladder cancer genetics,” and “bladder cancer symptoms.”
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