When you talk about your treatment for chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML) with your doctor, you can also ask him if you should join a clinical trial. It's a type of research study that checks if a new drug is safe and works better than meds that are used now.
Clinical trials may test a new treatment to see if it:
- Prevents symptoms
- Keeps CML from returning
- Helps people who have had poor results from standard treatments
What Are the Benefits?
A clinical trial may offer you new treatment options that improve your quality of life or let you live longer. It follows strict safety guidelines.
If researchers show that the treatment works well and is safe, the FDA may approve it so that it's available to other people.
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
- You may need to travel to take part.
- You may not know the type of treatment you get, but researchers will tell you the trial is set up this way before you join.
- Insurance may not cover all the costs, so check your insurer before you join.
Who Can Take Part?
Researchers decide who can safely join their clinical trial. They take into account things like:
- How old you are
- The phase of your CML
- Treatments you're taking or have taken
- Other illnesses or conditions
You often need to try standard treatments first, but that doesn't mean that all clinical trials are just for advanced disease.
Should You Join?
It's not an easy decision. You might consider a clinical trial if the treatment you get now isn't working, or because you need relief from symptoms or complications.
Be sure you have realistic expectations about a clinical trial and that you understand the pros and cons.
Your doctor can help you 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 take part?
- 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 800-303-5691.
- You can also get a list of current clinical trials at the National Cancer Institute. Call 800-4-CANCER or visit the website of the National Cancer Institute and click on "Clinical Trials."
- EmergingMed provides a free matching and referral service.