Mesothelioma Clinical Trials Provide Access to Potentially Life-Extending Treatments Not Yet Widely Available
Mesothelioma researchers are working hard to discover and develop treatments capable of slowing or entirely stopping the progression of this cancer.
It begins with testing in the lab. First, the researchers take a lab dish containing mesothelioma cells and subject them under the microscope to the new treatment—typically a drug or therapeutic agent. The researchers will watch what transpires and record their findings.
Next, if the findings appear favorable, they will try the treatment on lab mice or rats that have mesothelioma.
Then, if the treatment appears to work on the test animals without harming them, the researchers make plans to administer it to a small group of humans.
The process of testing a new treatment is known as a clinical trial
Clinical trials are typically conducted in three phases
To conduct a clinical trial, researcher issue a call for volunteers to serve as test subjects.
Trials are divided into three phases. In the first phase, researchers are mainly concerned with the safety of the participants. Accordingly, they give the treatment in the smallest possible doses at the beginning of the phase and gradually increase them over time to determine the optimal safe dose.
If the treatment is well-tolerated by the participants, then the clinical trial can move to its next phase. If the treatment produces too many side-effects, the trial ends there.
In Phase II, researchers focus on whether the treatment is effective. As before, if things go well, then the clinical trial proceeds to the next phase, otherwise it is discontinued.
In Phase III, the researchers test the treatment on a large number of participants—far more than were involved in the previous phases. Usually, the Phase III participants are divided into two groups. One receives the treatment, the other—labeled the control group—receives only a placebo (but isn’t told that it’s a fake treatment designed to do nothing).
When Phase III ends, the researchers send all their findings to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The FDA then reviews everything the researchers submitted and decides whether to approve use of the treatment.
Only if the FDA approves the treatment can it be made available to all mesothelioma patients. This why participation in mesothelioma clinical trials can be so valuable to patients—the FDA review and approval process can take years, meaning that the participants in the trial have access to potentially life-extending treatments long before anyone else.
Finding mesothelioma clinical trials
Clinical trials about to begin are announced publicly. However, mesothelioma patients don’t usually receive direct invitations to participate. Almost always they must take the initiative to find these opportunities.
A good source of information about mesothelioma clinical trials is the patient’s own mesothelioma doctor. Patients should ask their doctor for recommendations about appropriate clinical trials to which they can apply for enrollment.
Another good source of information is the National Cancer Institute (NCI). Part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ National Institutes of Health (NIH), the NCI conducts or funds the majority of mesothelioma clinical trials that take place in this country.
The NCI has a toll-free phone number that interested patients can call for information about ongoing and upcoming clinical trials. The number is (800) 422-6237, menu option 2. There is also an NCI website page that lists clinical trials (the list can be sorted by location and more).
The NIH’s Center for Cancer Research in Bethesda, Maryland, conducts quite a few mesothelioma-focused clinical trials. Information about them can be obtained by contacting either the center’s Patient Recruitment and Liaison Office at (800) 411-1222 or its referral coordinator at (888) 624-1937.
There is also the NCI Developmental Therapeutics Clinic (affiliated with NCI’s Division of Cancer Treatment and Diagnosis), which conducts clinical trials to investigate novel treatments for patients whose cancer does not respond to conventional medicine. Clinic referral coordinators are reachable at (240) 781-3400 or by email.
In addition to the NCI, another good source of information about clinical trials is the National Library of Medicine’s ClinicalTrials.gov website. There, patients will find information about thousands upon thousands of international research studies. However, patients are advised that the clinical trials listed may or may not have been reviewed by the U.S. government, so there is no guarantee that they meet federal healthcare standards.
As well, information about clinical trials can also be obtained by getting in touch with the American Cancer Society, The Meso Foundation, International Mesothelioma Interest Group, Canadian Mesothelioma Foundation, and other groups that advocate on behalf of mesothelioma patients.
There are also clinical-trial listing services that can be consulted. These include the Center for Information and Study on Clinical Research Participation (CISCRP), the EmergingMed Clinical Trial Navigator Service, WCG CenterWatch, and Imaginis.
Moreover, patients can consult administrators of well-known, top-tier medical centers, hospitals, and clinics. Mesothelioma clinical trials are regularly conducted at these facilities, which include University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center (Houston), Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (New York City), Mayo Clinic (Rochester, Minn.), Johns Hopkins Hospital (Baltimore), Dana-Farber/Brigham and Women’s Cancer Center (Boston), Cedars-Sinai Medical Center (Los Angeles), Northwestern Memorial Hospital (Chicago), Seattle Cancer Care Alliance/University of Washington Medical Center, and University of California San Francisco Medical Center.
Mesothelioma clinical trials often are funded by pharmaceutical companies. Those businesses can be counted on to post information about the trials at their websites. Among the pharmaceutical companies known to conduct mesothelioma clinical trials are Eli Lilly and Company, Merck, BerGenBio, and Roche.
More information about mesothelioma clinical trials is available by downloading this free guide. In it is a rundown of several of the most promising important mesothelioma clinical tests—promising because the therapeutics undergoing trialing are quite innovative.