A Few Basics on Cancer Trials

Maybe doctors and patients can help each other out.  We do have some locally available cancer trials in phases II-IV in the Philippines. 

Is someone that you know considering participation?  From my own knowledge of what's available hereabouts, current studies are mostly large, pharmaceutical company-sponsored, & international in scope (with a local arm).  Any doctor can refer you to these trials, if they are aware of them.  I hope that the Philippine Society of Medical Oncologists would list them all and post each center coordinator's contact details because there are eligibility issues for enrollment, with study-specific inclusion & exclusion criteria.  (For example, one project requires evidence of chemotherapy-induced anemia.)  Patient care will be coordinated by the study investigators while on the trial, in tandem with the participant's own doctors.  This is a plus– local investigators for the trials are board-certified & respected oncologists based in academic and/or major cancer centers.

Phase II & III trials usually provide both accepted & investigational cancer treatment, as well as all related medical services, laboratory & imaging.  Some phase IV trials give steep discounts (~50%) for the privilege of collecting your data while on standard treatment with their drugs.

As an oncologist, I prioritize these trials but have learned to expect resistance from patients AND doctors.  Misconceptions abound.  The trialists will not supplant the role of the primary physician.  Participants in these studies are not legally compelled to finish the process.  Patient well-being is secured by protocol checkpoints & side effects are minimized by constant protocol reviews.  Both active therapy & follow-up are under the direct supervision of respected oncologists, and their protocols may serve as treatment options where standard therapies don't exist or have run out.  But yes, not all side effects can be foreseen, nor can treatment benefit be guaranteed.  In fact, those issues may be part of the clinical questions to be answered, especially by the earlier phase trials. 

So– don't dismiss these trials upfront, but know what to ask the doctors in charge.  One of the requirements for a patient's enrollment is informed consent after all.

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