Clinical trials are research studies that play a critical role in the advancement of clinical and medical knowledge about disease. Data gathered throughout a trial provides valuable insight into how to detect, prevent or treat an illness.
Depending on your condition, your doctor may recommend that you consider participating in a clinical trial. It is important to know that a clinical trial protocol is different from the medical care you receive when you see the doctor. At a doctor’s office, the goal is to diagnose and treat the disease with established therapies. By contrast, a clinical study uses new therapies, current treatments in an innovative way, or new surgical procedures to widen medical understanding of the disease and treatment. Prior to activating a study, it is mandatory that an Institutional Review Board (IRB) approval be obtained. The IRB weighs the risks and benefits of a study to ensure that all human subject research is conducted in accordance with all federal, institutional, and ethical guidelines.
The decision to participate in a clinical trial is a complex one. Some trials involve healthy volunteers while others recruit patients with a particular illness. Some patients may choose to try a new therapy over their current options while others volunteer to provide medical information even though they themselves may not receive direct benefit. The National Institutes of Health has compiled a comprehensive resource of considerations about enrolling in a clinical trial.
At the Pacific Brain Tumor Center, we have a number of upcoming and ongoing trials for patients with various neurological conditions. To enroll in a trial, patients must meet inclusion/exclusion criteria, comply with follow up appointments, report any side effects and report all medications taken at home in addition to the investigative agent.
Patients who are interested in joining a clinical trial in their geographical area can search on www.clinicaltrials.gov to find active recruiting studies that pertain to their disease.
Annie Heng, BSN, is the Research Nurse Coordinator for the Pacific Brain Tumor Center at John Wayne Cancer Institute. With her considerable experience as a research project manager, she oversees the clinical trial program and is responsible for protocol management and approval, patient recruitment, follow-up and evaluation.