Papillary thyroid cancer is usually curable with standard surgery and treatments.
But if your cancer has returned after treatment, spread to other areas of your body, or is harder to treat, you might want to think about a clinical trial.
In these studies, researchers look for new ways to help prevent or treat diseases.
If you join a trial, you may receive a therapy that you can’t get otherwise.
Are You a Candidate for a Clinical Trial?
Some people consider a clinical trial only if their cancer is serious or advanced. But studies are available for people in all stages of the disease.
Each study is set up differently, and the guidelines for who can enroll depend on the specific trial. Those in charge of the trial will screen you to see if you’re eligible to take part.
The clinical staff may take these things into account:
- Your age
- Your sex
- The stage of your cancer
- Your other medical conditions
- Your family history
- Previous treatments you’ve had
- Current medicines you take
Usually, you’re allowed to take part in only one clinical trial at a time.
Types of Clinical Trials
Before a clinical trial can happen, scientists must do research and experiments that test the therapies in a lab. These are called preclinical studies.
To test a treatment, clinical trials involve four phases:
- Phase I: Researchers test a therapy on a group of 20-80 people. Phase I trials focus on safety, side effects, and dosages.
- Phase II: These studies involve more people, usually 100-300. The main goal of a phase II trial is to find out if a treatment works, but scientists also look at safety and side effects.
- Phase III: Researchers test different doses of the treatment. They may also combine it with other drugs or treatments. Phase III trials usually include several hundred to 3,000 volunteers.
- Phase IV: These trials take place after the FDA approves the treatment. Investigators continue to look at the therapy’s safety and effectiveness in large populations of people.
The FDA typically requires phase I, II, and III trials before it will approve a drug for use.
Not all clinical trials examine treatments. Some look at tests to help diagnose a disease. A cancer prevention trial enrolls healthy volunteers to help doctors find ways to lower the risk of specific types of cancer.
What Can You Expect?
After you’ve been screened and accepted into the trial, you’ll need to fill out a consent form.
The process will depend on the type of trial you’re enrolled in.
You’ll typically first need to have a physical exam. You may also take some other tests to give researchers more clues about your condition.
Once you start the therapy, the doctors will watch you carefully. You may need to have certain tests to see how the therapy works. Researchers will frequently ask you about any side effects that you notice.
It’s important to know that you can quit a study at any time, even before it ends.
Questions to Ask Before You Join a Trial
Here are some questions you may want to ask:
- What’s the purpose of this study?
- What treatment will I receive?
- Why do you think this treatment might work for my cancer?
- Is there another therapy that might be better?
- What are the risks and side effects?
- How long will the study last?
- How often will doctors need to observe me?
- Will my insurance cover the cost of the treatment?
- Who will be in charge of my care while I’m enrolled in the trial?
- If it helps me, will I be able to take this treatment after the trial ends?
Pros and Cons of Clinical Trials
If you volunteer for a trial to test a new therapy, there are benefits and risks to think about.
Some pros include:
- You might receive a novel treatment that isn’t available to the public yet.
- You’ll get top-notch medical care and frequent checkups.
- As a volunteer, you could help scientists discover new therapies that may benefit people in the future.
- A trial may help you play an active role in your health care.
Here are some possible cons:
- The treatment you receive might not be better than the standard one.
- Your health insurance may not cover the cost.
- You could have unwanted side effects.
- Doctors can’t guarantee that the therapy is safe.
- The trial might be inconvenient if you have to travel far distances or attend long appointments.
How to Find a Clinical Trial for Papillary Thyroid Cancer
If you’re interested in a clinical trial for papillary thyroid cancer, first talk to your doctor. They might be able to tell you about opportunities for your type of cancer.
Or you may find local ads for studies in a newspaper or on TV.
Several resources online also allow you to search for trials:
- National Cancer Institute