Join Clinical Trials for Skin Cancer (Non-Melanoma)
More than 2,000,000 Americans will hear the words “You have non-melanoma skin cancer” in 2012. Fortunately, fewer than 1,000 will die as a result. There are two major types of non-melanoma skin cancer: squamous cell carcinoma and basal cell carcinoma.
Due to their widespread prevalence, there is a wealth of research currently being conducted related to a variety of aspects of non-melanoma skin cancer. Current efforts focus on better methods of public education regarding ways to prevent the development of skin cancer, as well as improved methods of prevention and treatment.
What Will Non-Melanoma Skin Cancer Clinical Trials Be Like?
When participating in a non-melanoma skin 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 non-melanoma skin cancer clinical trials:
- Physical exam
- Detailed personal history of sun exposure and exposure to artificial sources of ultraviolet (UV) radiation, such as tanning beds.
- Detailed family history of skin cancer and other cancers.
- Detailed history of medication use, current and prior, to document exposure to drugs that increase sensitivity to sunlight or suppress the immune system.
- Detailed history of dermatologic procedures, such as mole removals or prior scarring or other trauma to the skin.
- 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.
- 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
Typical Non-Melanoma Skin Cancer Clinical Trial Protocol:
Research related to non-melanoma skin cancer is currently examining ways in which to prevent its development – through either behavioral modifications and/or medications that may reduce risk among high-risk individuals.
In addition, studies are also looking at improved methods of treating non-melanoma skin cancer, by both refining existing surgical and non-surgical approaches as well as using innovative new types of treatments, including creams, light therapy, immune therapy, and lasers. Sample clinical trials might include the following:
- A clinical trial that investigates the use of a vaccine directed against a particular human papillomavirus (HPV) in order to determine if individuals who receive the vaccine have a lower long-term risk of developing genital area skin cancer than those who do not receive the vaccine.
- A clinical trial that investigates whether use of a vitamin-A derived medication is useful in preventing the development of non-melanoma skin cancer among individuals at a high risk due to family history of the disease and certain genetic characteristics.
- A study designed to determine if the use of laser therapy following surgical removal of non-melanoma skin cancer helps to minimize scarring and other surgery-related side effects.
- A clinical trial investigating whether a newly developed drug that attacks specific proteins within advanced non-melanoma skin cancer cells is effective at a) slowing progression of the disease and b) improving quality of life among patients.
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, 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.
Suggested Search Terms:
Once you are ready to begin your search for non-melanoma skin cancer clinical trials, it might be best to use the specific name of the cell type of skin cancer that you have (i.e., squamous cell carcinoma or basal cell carcinoma), followed by any one of the terms listed below.
However, if that approach results in too few findings, try using “non-melanoma skin cancer” rather than your specific cell type.
The following search terms may be of use when combined with either your specific cell type of skin cancer or the term “non-melanoma skin cancer”: “non-melanoma skin cancer treatment,” “chemotherapy,” “radiation therapy,” “management,” “surgery,” “advanced,” “immune therapy,” “vaccine,” “photodynamic therapy,” “laser therapy,” “screening,” and “side effects.”
Current Search Term:
“Non-Melanoma Skin Cancer”