Clinical Trials and You
Clinical trials bring the most contemporary research to the fight against cancer & blood diseases. The many advances that have been made in the treatment of these illnesses over the past two decades began as research, and in many cases, as clinical trials.
As a research volunteer, you can play a pivotal role in the pursuit of new and more successful treatments. You will also have access to new procedures and new medications long before they are available to the general public. While some new treatments have proved disappointing, we are committed to utilizing trial results to speed the search for treatments and cures.
Why should you participate in a clinical trial?
You can participate in clinical trials for a variety of reasons. Volunteering for research studies can provide access to promising new drugs long before they are available to the general public. While there is always a chance that a new treatment will prove to be less effective than hoped, there is also reason to believe that it will be as good as, or better than, current treatments. Every effort is made to ensure your safety; the care from the physicians during the course of the study is highly controlled and monitored.
What kinds of trials are available?
Clinical trials study ways to prevent, detect, diagnose, control, and treat disease; studies of the psychological impact of the disease; and ways to improve patient comfort and quality of life (including pain management).
Most trials address new treatments. These might involve surgery, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy. Alone or in combination, these types of treatments can cure many patients and prolong the lives of others.
Clinical trials are currently available through West Michigan Cancer Center & Institute for Blood Disorders and our affiliated resources.
Questions you should ask before participating
If you are thinking about taking part in a clinical trial, there are some important questions you should ask:
- What is the purpose of the study?
- What does the study involve? What kinds of tests and treatments?
- What is likely to happen in my case with my participation in this study?
- Are there standard treatments for my case? And if a study is chosen, how do they compare?
- What other choices do I have? Advantages and disadvantages?
- How could the study affect my daily life?
- What side effects could I expect from the study?
- How long will the study last? Will it require an extra time commitment on my part?
- Will I have to be hospitalized? If so, for how long?
- Will I have any expenses? Will any part of the treatment be free?
- If I were harmed as a result of the research, what treatment would I be entitled to?
- What type of long-term follow-up care is part of the study?
Treatment Trials / Symptoms Management Trials
Treatment trials test new treatments (like a new drug, new approaches to surgery or radiation therapy, new combinations of treatments, or new methods such as gene therapy). Symptom management trials, called quality of life trials, explore ways to improve comfort and quality of life for patients.
Clinical research involves the testing of a new drug progresses in an orderly series of steps, called phases. This allows researchers to ask and answer questions in a way that results in reliable information about the drug and protects the patients. Clinical trials are usually classified into one of three phases:
- Phase I trials:
These first studies in people evaluate how a new drug should be given (by mouth, injected into the blood, or injected into the muscle), how often, and what dose is safe. A Phase I trial usually enrolls only a small number of patients, sometimes as few as a dozen.
- Phase II trials:
A Phase II trial continues to test the safety of the drug, and begins to evaluate how well the new drug works. Phase II studies usually focus on a particular type of cancer or blood disease.
- Phase III trials:
These studies test a new drug, a new combination of drugs, or a new surgical procedure in comparison to the current standard. A participant will usually be assigned to the standard group or the new group at random (called randomization). Phase III trials often enroll large numbers of people and may be conducted at many doctors’ offices, clinics, and cancer centers nationwide.
How to participate
Clinical trials have launched many of the advances in treatment over the past two decades. A clinical trial can be an integral part of your treatment as well. Participation is a very personal decision that you should make in consultation with your physician and with the support of your family. Should you choose to participate, you will receive the complete support of WMCC medical and support staffs.
Cancer Research Consortium of West Michigan (CRCWM)
Eleven hospitals and health care systems including West Michigan Cancer Center & Institute for Blood Disorders are part of a consortium called the Cancer Research Consortium of West Michigan (CRCWM). This consortium brings the highest level of clinical trials from the National Cancer Institute (NCI) to the men, women and children of our communities.
National Cancer Institute Community Oncology Research Program (NCORP)
The consortium is designated by the NCI as a National Cancer Institute Community Oncology Research Program (NCORP). This designation provides $1.9 million in grant money annually for CRCWM to provide new cutting edge clinical cancer trials to our community and to complete existing clinical trials. More than 1,800 West Michigan patients are currently enrolled. CRCWM is one of only 46 community sites across the country.
CRCWM members include:
- West Michigan Cancer Center & Institute for Blood Disorders – Kalamazoo
- Bronson Battle Creek – Battle Creek
- Mercy Health Mercy Campus – Muskegon
- Mercy Health Saint Mary’s – Grand Rapids
- Metro Health Hospital – Wyoming
- Michigan State University College of Human Medicine – Grand Rapids
- Munson Medical Center – Traverse City
- Spectrum Health – Grand Rapids
- Spectrum Health Lakeland – St. Joseph
- Spectrum Health Reed City Hospital – Reed City
- Van Andel Research Institute – Grand Rapids
More information about the Cancer Research Consortium of West Michigan can be found at www.crcwm.org. Research conducted through the CRCWM NCORP grant is supported by the National Cancer Institute of the National Institutes of Health under Award Number UG1CA189860.
Clinical Trial Partnership with Dana-Farber Cancer Institute
Certain blood cancer patients treated at WMCC are now able to take part in clinical trials offered by the renowned Dana-Farber Cancer Institute as a result of a new collaboration.
WMCC is one of 12 oncology practices nationwide to join a consortium with Boston-based Dana-Farber, a stand-alone hospital affiliated with Harvard Medical School. The new Blood Cancer Research Partnership (BCRP) provides innovative clinical trials to patients closer to their home. Funding is being provided by the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.
Most clinical trials are initiated at academic institutions located far away from the community. By offering these clinical trials here, patients locally can potentially benefit from novel treatments which are created as a result of Dana-Farber’s world-class research. Through the partnership, WMCC has two new clinical trials open and available to blood cancer patients. The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society is investing more than $1million in the three-year Blood Cancer Research Project.