CML Treatment: Time to Consider a Clinical Trial?
Sujana Movva, MD
Wondering if a clinical trial for CML treatment is a good option for you? Here’s some information to help you decide.
What Is a CML Clinical Trial?
It’s a research study that's done to see if a new drug is safe and effective or is better than what’s already in use.
Clinical trials may test a drug or treatment to see if it:
- Prevents side effects
- Keeps CML from returning
- Helps people who haven’t had good results from standard treatment
Clinical trials rarely use placebos (inactive or “fake” treatments sometimes used in other trials).
What Are the Benefits?
A clinical trial may offer new treatment options that improve your quality of life or prolong your life.
Clinical trials follow strict guidelines to ensure they are safe and that the risks don't outweigh potential benefits.
A treatment that proves safe and effective could be approved by the FDA and made available to other people. Gleevec (imatinib), a commonly used treatment, was first introduced in clinical trials.
What Are the Downsides?
There are no guarantees. Even if other people benefit, the treatment may not work for you.
Other concerns include:
- Side effects or complications
- Taking part may require travel
- You may not know the type of treatment you're taking. But the researchers will tell you the trial is set up this way before you join.
- Insurance may not cover all the costs. Talk with study coordinators and your insurer before you join.
Who Can Participate?
Researchers decide who is eligible for the trial. Factors can include:
- The phase of your CML, whether chronic, accelerated, or blast crisis
- Treatments you’re taking or have taken
- Other illnesses or conditions
In many cases, participants must try standard treatment first, because treatment for CML has become more effective in recent years. But not all clinical trials are just for advanced disease.
Should You Join?
This is not an easy decision. You might be considering a clinical trial because other treatment hasn't worked, or because you need relief from side effects or complications from standard treatment.
Be sure you have realistic expectations about participating in a clinical trial and that you understand the risks and benefits.
Your doctor can help you understand and work out the pros and cons. He may be able to refer you to some trials. Ask about other treatment options to try first.
Then ask yourself these questions:
- How will my daily life be affected?
- Am I well enough to participate?
- Are time and money likely to be a problem?
Where to Learn More about CML Clinical Trials
Here are some resources to help you learn more:
- Developed by the Coalition of Cancer Cooperative Groups, the TrialCheck database is the most comprehensive database of cancer clinical trials. Call 1-800-303-5691.
- You can also get a list of current clinical trials at the National Cancer Institute. Call 1-800-4-CANCER or visit the National Cancer Institute's web site and click on "Clinical Trials."
- EmergingMed provides a free matching and referral service.