Join Thyroid Cancer Clinical Trials
Thyroid cancer affects the thyroid gland, which is a small gland located at the base of the neck, just below the Adam’s apple. There are four types of thyroid cancer that thyroid cancer clinical trials study, including papillary, follicular, medullary, and anaplastic.
Thyroid cancer will affect approximately 56,000 individuals in the United States in 2012 and fewer than 2,000 will die from the disease. However, despite these seemingly encouraging statistics, rates of thyroid cancer seem to be on the increase in the United States.
Although this is likely due to the fact that newer and better technologies are allowing doctors to find smaller tumors that may not have been detectable with older methods, researchers are still working hard to determine the causes of thyroid cancer, better ways to detect and prevent it, and improved methods for treatment.
What Will Thyroid Cancer Clinical Trials Be Like?
When participating in thyroid cancer clinical trials, 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 thyroid cancer clinical trials:
- Physical exam
- Blood test to measure the level of thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) in your body.
- 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.
- Ultrasound of the neck.
- 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 Thyroid Cancer Clinical Trials:
Current thyroid cancer research is devoted to discovering more about what causes the disease, how to prevent it from occurring, and ways to improve existing treatments. Sample clinical trials might include the following:
- A study that evaluates increased screening methods for individuals with a particular genetic mutation known to incur a high risk of thyroid cancer, to determine if regular and increased screening efforts lead to a) earlier detection of thyroid cancer and b) more successful treatment outcomes.
- A clinical trial that investigates whether thyroid cancer patients who have their thyroid gland removed have less of a risk of cancer recurrence if they are treated with radioactive iodine therapy following surgery.
- A clinical trial in which half of the thyroid cancer patients receive standard surgery, while half receive a drug that cuts off blood supply to the thyroid tumor prior to standard surgery, in order to determine if those who receive the drug + surgery combination have a better outcome overall.
A brief word about randomized trials and placebos:
Many clinical trials, like thyroid cancer 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 for Thyroid Cancer Clinical Trials:
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 thyroid cancer clinical trials, it might be best to use the specific type of thyroid cancer you have (e.g., medullary or follicular), followed by any one of the terms listed below. However, if that approach results in too few findings, try using “thyroid cancer” rather than your specific thyroid cancer type.
The following search terms may be of use when combined with either your specific thyroid cancer type or the term “thyroid cancer”: “treatment,” “chemotherapy,” “radiation therapy,” “management,” “surgery,” “advanced,” “iodine therapy,” “targeted therapy,” “diet,” “screening,” “risk factors,” “side effects,” “pediatric,” and “children.”
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