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Accessing Clinical Trials

Posted 5/1/2014

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  First, a follow up to my entry of 4/29 re longterm unemployment after adjuvant breast cancer chemotherapy. A friend, Marc Silver, is an author (Breast Cancer Husband, My Parent has Cancer and it Really Sucks) and journalist who wrote an excellent piece for NPR about this study. Here is the link:

  Today's topic is different as Heather Millar's piece from WebMD about accessing clinical trials has set me off in that direction. Working at a large academic medical center means that clinical trials are very present and available, when appropriate, to our patients. I was treated on a trial when I first had breast cancer in 1993, and I know many women who have participated through the years in various studies. BIDMC , along with MGH and DFCI, is part of the Dana Farber Harvard Cancer Center; this means that the three institutions share trials, often refer patients from one to another, and work under the same research umbrella.

  As long as your medical situation fits the trial's criteria (and this is always rigid and inflexible), the system here makes it easy for patients to enroll and participate. That is not the case for people who are treated at smaller offices, away from academic/research medicine. Since everything that we know about cancer treatment has been learned from clinical trials, it is imperative that they be available and accessible to all patients.

  Here is the start of Ms. Millar's piece and then a link to read more:

Clinical Trials Now Accessible to More Patients
By Heather Millar

For many cancer patients, maybe even the majority, clinical trials can seem completely out of reach.
Unless you’re getting treatment in a big academic hospital, it can be hassle not only to find a clinical
trial, but to get the “go ahead” to enroll in that trial. It can mean online research, forms, more tests, and
travel to a research site. It can often take months to find a trial and get enrolled. And patients with
disease that has spread—those for whom research most needs to be done—often don’t have that kind
of energy or time.
But what if you could get in a clinical trial within just a couple of weeks – wherever you are in the
That’s the goal with a new research model being used by the Swiss pharmaceutical giant Novartis. The idea for a more patient-friendly approach came a couple years ago, when Novartis’ Steven Stein, MD, was talking with a fellow oncologist who practices in Florida. The friend was ranting about how difficult he found it to get his patients enrolled in clinical trials.
The conversation stuck with Stein, and he remembers thinking that there had to be a better way. The result, 2 years later, is the SIGNATURE trial, launched 10 months ago. Novartis is testing five potential drugs in this trial, and expects to increase that number to 10 by midsummer. About 100 patients all over the country have participated so far, and the company also expects those numbers to grow quickly.


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