Getting a cancer diagnosis can be frightening, and picking a course of treatment may feel overwhelming. But new innovations in research are changing the way cancer is being treated, and clinical trials are providing cutting-edge new treatments that may improve future diagnoses. The goal of clinical trials is to find treatments that are better than what’s currently available. Virtually every therapy approved to treat cancer has been made possible by those who agree to participate in clinical trials.

There are currently over 22,000 active cancer clinical trials in the US that are enrolling patients or preparing to recruit participants. However, very few adult cancer patients join a trial, and one-in-five cancer clinical trials aren’t completed due to a lack of participants. Without enough patient data, a promising treatment might never get approved.

Debunking myths

In addition to the lack of awareness of the necessity of clinical trials, there are many misunderstandings and myths that need to be addressed. For example, clinical trials are not just a last hope for patients for whom the traditional standard of care has failed; many cancer trials enroll patients who have not received prior treatment. There is also a misunderstanding concerning the use of placebos, which are rarely used. Most clinical trials provide either the experimental treatment or the treatment that is the most current “standard of care.”

...new innovations in research are changing the way cancer is being treated, and clinical trials are providing cutting-edge new treatments that may improve future diagnoses.

Another issue to consider is that members of minority communities are too often underrepresented in clinical trials. According to the FDA’s Drug Trials Snapshots, in 2017, nearly 75 percent of the participants in cancer clinical trials leading to drug approval were white, whereas only two percent were Black or African-American, four percent were Hispanic, and 12 percent were Asian.

Public awareness

Seeking to increase the public’s awareness of clinical trials, Stand Up To Cancer has launched an extensive Public Service Awareness campaign encouraging patients to ask their doctors which clinical trial may be right for them. The campaign features Stand Up To Cancer Ambassador Sonequa Martin-Green, as well as diverse cancer patients, and the online resources available in both English and Spanish aim to include people from all ethnicities and backgrounds.

Visitors to StandUpToCancer.org/ClinicalTrials (and StandUpToCancer.org/es/ensayosclinicos) will find content that is easy to understand, including short videos explaining clinical trials and different types of treatment, the terms one may hear when discussing trials, the benefits of participating, and what to expect if you or a loved one participates in a clinical trial. The website also provides a list of questions that can be printed for reference during discussions with your healthcare provider. Additionally, Stand Up To Cancer provides a free and confidential Clinical Trial Finder service through EmergingMed that allows patients or caregivers interested in finding an appropriate clinical trial to submit an online form or call a toll-free number to begin the process.

Since launching this campaign in February, SU2C has engaged dozens of advocacy organizations to increase the reach of these assets. As we collectively increase awareness, and more diverse cancer patients participate in clinical trials, researchers will learn about new treatments that may be more effective in fighting cancer.