Jun 18th 2021

Clinical Trials in Cancer Management: Improving Care Now and in the Future

Decades of research and efforts to improve care have led to great advances, but cancer is still one of the leading causes of death. In the U.S., 1.8 million new patients are diagnosed with cancer and more than 600,000 people die annually.

 

As the population ages, new cancer cases are on the upswing, which means the number of patients being treated for cancer reaches ever-higher, in part because new cancer treatments are prolonging lives and extending care. With cases mounting and therapy options increasing, cancer management has become increasingly complex and oncology clinical trials are becoming even more important than in the past.

 

Clinical trials play a double role: They help providers improve care for cancer patients now, while also supporting the development of new cancer treatment options that may improve patient outcomes in the future.

 

The important role of clinical trials in oncology

 

Oncology clinical trials study brand-new treatment approaches or compare a new cancer treatment with an existing option that has already proven effective. Such research studies often focus on the use of one or more drugs, new surgeries or radiation treatments, or another way of applying proven therapies.

Some researchers look for ways to prevent cancer, better ways to diagnose cancer, while others explore options that can help patients live better lives by reducing side effects associated with cancer treatments.

 

The clinical trials usually encompass three phases.

 

Phase 1 clinical trial: Researchers study a small number of people to find a safe medication dose or appropriate radiation treatment regimen, to determine how to apply the treatment (e.g., by mouth or injection) and learn how the treatment affects the cancer and patients.  Patients in phase 1 clinical trials have usually tried multiple different treatment options before enrolling in a phase 1 trial.

 

Phase 2 clinical trial: Researchers study a slightly larger group of people with the same kind of cancer to find whether the treatment is effective against their cancer using the safe approach established during the phase 1 trial and to more fully understand the treatment’s effects on cancer and patients.  Patients in phase 2 clinical trials have usually tried one or two different treatment options before enrolling in a phase 2 trial.

 

Phase 3 clinical trial: Researchers study hundreds or thousands of people to determine how effective the new cancer treatment is compared to the existing standard options.  The goal of a phase 3 trial is to test whether the new approach is a better standard option that should be recommended for everyone in the future.  Patients in phase 3 clinical trials are usually receiving their first treatment for their cancer as part of the trial.

 

Some trials also involve a fourth phase of research that assesses the long-term effects of the radiation treatment regimen or the drug after the Food and Drug Administration approves its usage. Collectively, oncology clinical trials help physicians find better ways to treat and prevent cancer.

 

The benefits of clinical trials in cancer management

 

Patients may see immediate results from oncology clinical trials. The potential medical benefits of clinical trials for cancer patients include:

·       Access to a new, potentially more effective cancer treatment that is not available to people outside the trial.

·       Close monitoring by the research team helps ensure optimum care.

 

Oncology physicians can help patients decide if they should participate in oncology clinical trials. For example, as board-certified medical oncologists, eviCore's medical directors recommend personalized care for patients based on the most current evidence-based clinical guidelines from the National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN®).  NCCN is a strong advocate for the benefit of clinical trials, and each major guideline includes the statement “NCCN believes that the best management for any patient with cancer is in a clinical trial.  Participation in clinical trials is especially encouraged.”

 

Common eligibility criteria for oncology clinical trials include:

·       Age

·       Cancer type

·       Stage of cancer

·       Medical history

·       Previous cancer therapy

 

Cancer patients who participate in clinical trials may benefit financially as well as medically—the trial's organizer typically pays for the parts of treatment and monitoring that are being studied, so some of the patient’s care is provided at no cost.

As the number of cancer cases continues to increase and the complexities of care keep multiplying, clinical trials are increasingly essential in cancer management, helping patients today while supporting better outcomes tomorrow.

 

eviCore's Medical Oncology solution ensures that patients achieve optimal clinical and financial outcomes by guiding providers to cancer treatment plans recommended by the National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN®) as well as high quality cancer clinical trials registered at clinicaltrials.gov.

Contact us to learn more about how our clinical decision support (CDS) tool helps providers quickly identify the most appropriate evidence-based cancer treatment options based on each patient's unique clinical situation and the most up-to-date evidence.