Major drug companies are always researching and developing new breast cancer treatments. But the treatments must be shown to be safe and effective before doctors can prescribe them. Through clinical trials, researchers test the effects of new medications on a group of volunteers with breast cancer.
Following strict guidelines and using carefully controlled conditions, researchers test these drugs for their ability to treat breast cancer, their safety, and any side effects.
Elyse Caplan remembers it well, that first conversation with her oncologist.
She had just been diagnosed with stage IIB breast cancer, and they were
discussing the game plan for treatment. If her oncologist mentioned
"recurrence" -- the possibility that her cancer could return -- it was
lost on her, she says.
"You sit through an hour-long appointment and take notes, but when the
doctor says one thing that's very upsetting, you just freeze," she tells
WebMD. "You're thinking, 'I'm going to...
Some patients don't want to take part in clinical trials for fear of getting no treatment at all. This fear is misguided. People who join clinical trials receive the most effective treatments available for their condition -- the same treatments they would get at a local cancer center -- or they may get new treatments being tested. These drugs may be even more effective than the current treatment. Comparing them head to head is the only way to find out.
Rarely does a patient receive no treatment at all in a clinical trial. For example, if a patient is in a situation where the best existing treatment is no treatment at all, a clinical trial may compare a "no treatment" group with a new treatment. Everyone gets at least the treatment they would receive from their regular cancer doctor, and possibly a new one.
The following web sites offer information to help you find a breast cancer clinical trial that is right for you.
This web site, developed by the nonprofit Coalition of Cancer Cooperative Groups, is an unbiased cancer clinical trial matching service. It lets patients search for cancer trials based on their disease and location.