Every treatment that's available today for multiple myeloma first went through a clinical trial. A clinical trial is a study that tests new treatments for cancer and other diseases. It helps researchers learn whether a new therapy is more effective or has fewer side effects than current ones. Some clinical trials test new ways to use existing treatments. Others investigate whether drugs that treat other diseases also work for multiple myeloma.
Reasons to Join a Clinical Trial
You might decide to enroll in a multiple myeloma study if:
- The treatments you've tried haven't worked
- Your cancer has come back after treatment
- You want to contribute to cancer research and help other people with multiple myeloma
A clinical trial will give you access to a new treatment before it's available to the public. You’ll also get care and follow-up from an expert team of multiple myeloma doctors, nurses, and other health care providers.
How to Find a Clinical Trial
The easiest way to find a clinical trial is to ask the doctor who treats your cancer or the patient navigator at your cancer hospital. You can also search for one on the International Myeloma Foundation website or the ClinicalTrials.gov website.
If a study isn't available close to where you live, you have a few options. First, your oncologist might be able to give you the treatment from the study. If you're willing to travel, some studies cover travel and hotel costs.
Before you can participate in a clinical trial, you'll need to qualify. Studies have different requirements, based on factors like your age, type, and stage of cancer, treatments you’ve already tried, and overall health. Some clinical trials will require you to have an exam, as well as blood and imaging tests before you can enroll.
Once you find a study that seems to be a good fit, call the research coordinator or the principal investigator in charge of the trial to ask questions. Also, ask your oncologist whether they think the trial is right for you.
What to Expect
Before you participate in a clinical trial, you'll have to sign a consent form. This form tells you everything you need to know about the study, including:
- What tests you'll have
- How often you'll need to meet with the study doctors and nurses
- How the new treatment might help you
- What side effects and other problems it could cause
- How it's different from standard multiple myeloma treatments
Sometimes the center that is doing the study will cover all of your costs. In other cases, your insurance may pay for any tests or treatments you'll need. Make sure you understand who covers the costs and whether you will have any out-of-pocket costs.
Keep in mind: Just because you enroll in a study doesn't mean that you'll get the new treatment. Cancer studies compare a new therapy to the treatment doctors currently use for multiple myeloma. That means that some of the people in the study will get the regular treatment for their type and stage of cancer. You won't get a placebo, or inactive treatment, unless it's combined with the standard treatment.
Treatments in clinical trials are experimental. There's no guarantee that the treatment in your study will work for you. You don't have to stay in the trial if you're not improving or you have side effects. You can quit at any time.