(StatePoint) Melanoma, the deadliest skin cancer, is one of the most common types of cancer in the U.S. and rates are on the rise. Choosing a course of treatment is one of the biggest decisions one makes while battling cancer, but experts say that many patients aren’t being told about a critical option: clinical trials.
Only one in four people know anything about clinical trials, according to the National Institutes of Health, and only 15 percent of patients report ever having been asked to participate. But clinical trials are not only a way to gain access to new, potentially lifesaving treatments that may prove more beneficial than drugs on the market, they are also what’s made every single FDA-approved drug that exists today possible.
While melanoma therapies have improved dramatically over the past decade, there’s still no cure.
“We have made enormous strides in treating melanoma, but too many people still aren’t benefiting from even the newest approaches,” says Marc Hurlbert, Ph.D., Melanoma Research Alliance, chief science officer. “Lack of awareness about treatment opportunities, particularly for patients seen outside of premier cancer centers, along with myths associated with research studies, continue to present obstacles for patient participation.”
Patients should understand all of their options to make the best possible decisions about their care.
“I would not be alive today, I mean hands down, without clinical trials. Stage IV melanoma had a 14 percent five-year survival rate when I was diagnosed in 2012,” says Jamie Troil Goldfarb, a stage IV melanoma survivor.
Choosing a treatment direction, including whether or not to enter into a clinical trial, is a big decision. To help people make informed decisions and understand just how important clinical trials are to everyone, the Melanoma Research Alliance created resources and tools about clinical trials, and is dispelling these five common myths:
1) MYTH: Clinical trials are a last resort.
REALITY: Joining a clinical trial is a viable treatment option from day one of your diagnosis.
2) MYTH: I might get a sugar pill (placebo) without any real treatment.
REALITY: In melanoma clinical trials, patients may receive a placebo in addition to an FDA-approved standard of care treatment. Whether you’re getting a standard or investigational therapy, by participating in a clinical trial, you’ll receive close monitoring of your condition.
3) MYTH: Clinical trials cost more than standard treatment.
REALITY: The trial sponsor usually pays for the experimental therapy. They may also pay for any additional tests or visits required for the study. Patients, or their insurance, are responsible for the usual costs of care needed regardless of being in a clinical trial.
4) MYTH: If clinical trials were right for me, my doctor would say something.
REALITY: Not all doctors are aware of all options. Patients should be their own advocate and research what’s available.
5) MYTH: If I change my mind, or the treatment isn’t working, I’m stuck.
REALITY: Clinical trial participation is voluntary and you can quit any time for any reason.
Currently, there are over 400 melanoma-focused trials actively enrolling patients. These trials will help develop new and improve existing treatments, and offer patients an opportunity to access cutting edge therapies. To learn more and be matched to clinical trials in your area, visit curemelanoma.org/clinicaltrials.
If you are battling melanoma, or any cancer, remember to ask about clinical trials. You haven’t considered all of your options until you do.
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