GYN and Other Research
Hester Hill Schnipper, LICSW, OSW-C Program Manager, Oncology Social Work
SEPTEMBER 21, 2017
We all know, or we all should know, that there is a potential crisis in funding for cancer research. It is increasingly difficult for researchers to have grants accepted/funded, and we are all the losers.It is worth remembering that advances come in unexpected ways. Research for kidney cancer might identify a very useful treatment for lung cancer. Scientists never know exactly how something will evolve, and their work must be valued and supported.
There is also the issue of patients signing up for clinical trials. This is more complicated than it might first seem. In order to even hear of a potential trial, an individual has to be working with a doctor who participates. Many community cancer centers don't spend much time or energy on enlisting patients for trials; they just don't have the resources to do so. It is unrealistic to expect patients to find their own possible trials; they need to depend on their doctors for suggestions or direction.
As an example, participation in Phase III clinical trials for GYN cancers declined 90% between 2011 and 2016. I suspect that other cancer types have similar profiles.
From Susan Gubar in The New York Times comes this disturbing article:
The Crisis in Gynecological Cancer Research
By SUSAN GUBAR
As an ovarian cancer patient whose life is being extended by a clinical trial, I was delighted to learn this summer that research on gynecological cancers is undergoing an unusually productive period. But I’m dismayed that at the same time there has been a steep decline in clinical trials available in the field.
For decades, the complexity of cervical, ovarian, endometrial and vulvar cancers stymied researchers; however, several advances have begun to extend women’s lives. The addition of new chemotherapy regimens and newly effective targeted drugs, like the PARP inhibitor I have been taking for five years to keep my cancer in check, are lengthening survival rates. (All resulted from clinical trials.) Ironically, too, in potentially lucrative areas of cancer research, there are too many clinical drug trials, and not enough patients.
While medical scientists are discovering the determinants that drive gynecologic tumor growth, clinical trials in gynecological cancer — translating that knowledge into specific strategies — dwindle. According to the Society of Gynecologic Oncology, enrollment in phase 3 National Cancer Institute clinical trials designed for gynecologic cancers declined 90 percent from 2011 to 2016.
In July, at the Ovarian Cancer National Conference in Chicago, a succession of experts expressed alarm about this: