Cancer treatments studied today could become the standard of care tomorrow. That’s just one reason why patients consider participating in a clinical trial, says Kimberly Ivester, director at the Helen G. Nassif Community Cancer Center.
“Clinical trials give our patients more options,” explains Ivester. “In most cases, the patient receives one more component, such as a new cancer-fighting drug, in addition to the current standard of care. It’s a way for them to get access to innovative new treatments.”
Research at the Community Cancer Center is made available in collaboration with Physicians’ Clinics of Iowa (PCI). William Fusselman, MD, PCI Hematology & Oncology, serves as principal investigator. Through the Iowa Wide Oncology Research Coalition (I-WORC), PCI and the Community Cancer Center have access to federally funded trials. They also participate in trials conducted by industry and pharmaceutical companies.
Participation is always voluntary, stresses Dr. Fusselman, and a patient who wants to withdraw from a trial can do so at any time. But those who participate may find it gives them more options, as well as benefiting future patients and generations.
“Patients often say, ‘If there’s something I can do to help other patients, I want to be a part of that,’” says Ivester.
On average, the Community Cancer Center has 15 different clinical trials available at any given time. They can be used for evaluating a new treatment or medication, improving quality of life by reducing side effects, or improving diagnosis or prevention. From the new St. Luke’s Albert G. and Helen Nassif Radiation Center, local cancer patients will gain increased access to radiation therapy trials or trials that offer a combination of radiation and chemotherapy treatment.
“We’re excited about the opportunity to expand the clinical trials for patients in our community, by taking part in trials that look at advances in radiation therapy,” says Ivester.
Ivester adds some patients think a clinical trial is a last resort after all other treatment has failed. But clinical trials are often a good way to start treatment and give patients more options to discuss with their provider. Clinical trials are not available for every type of cancer, but are a good option to consider when they are available.
“Some patients consider a clinical trial their best option,” says Ivester. “And the best part is, they can have access to these trials while receiving treatment right in Cedar Rapids.”
Cancer patients are urged to talk to their doctor about their treatment options, including clinical trials. By learning about available studies and what’s involved, patients can make the decision that’s right for them.