Clinical trials are a way for researchers to test new therapies, devices, or medications to see if they're safe and effective for treating a condition. If you join one, you might get a chance to try a therapy that isn't available yet to the public.
If you have a relapse of follicular lymphoma -- which means your cancer returned after a period of improvement -- talk to your doctor about whether a clinical trial might be right for you.
How to Join a Clinical Trial
If you're thinking about joining a clinical trial, take these steps:
Know your condition. Some clinical trials have specific requirements for joining, such as age, type and stage of cancer, general health, and previous treatment. The more you know about your relapsed follicular lymphoma, the better you'll know if you qualify.
Search out options. Your health care team is the best starting place when you decide to look into clinical trials. They know the full scope of your condition and can talk through options that might be available for you. You can ask for a second opinion to be sure you know what's out there. You can also find clinical trials through websites of organizations such as the National Cancer Institute, the Lymphoma Research Foundation, the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, or ClinicalTrials.gov.
Read the fine print. As you look for a trial, make sure you understand their "protocol summary," a brief description of the goal of the trial and which treatments will be tested in it. Your health care team can help you figure out any parts you don't understand. You also want to take note of where the trial is taking place and how long it will run.
Get in touch. The summary of the trial should also give you a phone number you can call for more information. You can call directly, or you can ask a member of your health care team to call for you.
Ask questions. Once you have someone to talk to directly, be sure you understand the details you need. What are the risks and side effects of the treatment? How long do I have to decide to commit to this trial? Who will be in charge of my care? How many others will be in the trial?
What Happens in a Clinical Trial?
Once you've decided to join a clinical trial, the process typically includes:
Contact from the clinical trial staff. They'll get more information about you and answer any further questions you have.
Informed consent agreement. This is a document they'll ask you to sign saying you understand what will happen in the clinical trial and you give the team permission to treat you.
Screening. The team will make sure you meet all the requirements for joining the clinical trial.
First (baseline) visit. Once the clinical trial accepts you, researchers will do tests to check your physical and mental condition so they can compare it to tests at the end of the trial.
Assignment to a group. The team will put you into one of two groups. In the control group, you'll get the regular treatment for follicular lymphoma. In the investigational group, you'll get the new treatment that's being tested in the clinical trial.
Treatment. You go through the steps of the treatment for your clinical trial.
Regular testing. Your team will keep up with your progress as you go through the study.
There's always a possibility that a trial could end early because people in the study have bad side effects, or another treatment turns out to be better, or some other reason. But if you complete your trial, your team will share the results and data they gathered.
New Treatments for Relapsed Follicular Lymphoma
Clinical trials are now looking at possible therapies for relapsed follicular lymphoma, such as:
More advanced anti-CD20 monoclonal antibodies. Researchers have developed new anti-CD20 monoclonal antibodies (mAbs). These treatments target a specific antigen, CD20. The study is testing whether these new mAbs (i-tositumomab, obinutuzumab, ofatumumab, and y-ibritumomab) work better, have fewer side effects, and improve survival rates when compared to the standard treatment for follicular lymphoma, rituximab (Rituxan).
Immunostimulatory drugs. Clinical trials using these drugs pair them with rituximab to see if they can improve how well rituximab is able to kill cancer cells.