Clinical Trials? What's the Formula

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My aunt left me a message last night while I was umpiring a Little League Baseball game. While I was enjoying watching 8-year-old boys show their skills on the ballfield, she was calling to let me know that her cancer has returned. She wanted to know about her treatment options for the difficult disease that has come back, despite her previous surgery and radiation therapy.  

She lives in another city, and her excellent team of cancer specialists discussed with her the choice of a standard treatment regimen of chemotherapy compared to a clinical trial. The trial option involves allowing the treatment choice to be randomly assigned (by a computer) to a new cancer treatment pill (taken alone) versus a combination of the new agent and some other commonly used medications.

So what help could I offer her in making this decision? What is the formula going through my mind?

clinical trials = discovery = hope = quality care in medical oncology

While this isn't the key equation in all other disciplines (such as pathology, surgery, family medicine, etc.), the discipline of medical oncology is different in this regard. Clinical trials are what nourish medical oncologists and patients in the research-driven patient care model.

Clinical trials are critical to the international patients we care for at M. D. Anderson and to our patients who choose to receive care at our satellite centers in the community, much in the same way as they're important to patients who we care for at our main campus in the Texas Medical Center in Houston, Texas. All of these groups are more similar than different.

Even if only a portion of patients choose to enroll in our trials, it's the HOPE that emanates from the trial menu and related discussions about discovery that sustains the magic of M. D. Anderson Cancer Center and the power of change in outcomes related to cancer care.

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