8 reasons to start your clinical trial after diagnosis

While many patients don’t participate in clinical trials until they exhaust other options, the truth is there’s no reason to wait.

After all, trial participants are treated with the best existing therapies for their conditions, or with new options that offer significant improvement potential. The regimens are overseen by top physicians in their medical fields, with patients’ health monitored every step of the way. And early treatment as soon as possible after diagnosis can make a huge difference in disease outcomes.

“Clinical trials are never a last resort; they're the gold standard treatment for any stage of cancer,” breast cancer specialist Dr. Jame Abraham recently noted in Health.USNews.com. “Since cancer treatment is far from perfect, we're always looking for opportunities to improve treatment options for every stage of a cancer diagnosis, not just late stage.”

Further, recent research shows most trialists end the experience glad they participated; 68 percent rate it as “very positive” and 78 percent say they’re “very likely” to participate in another trial, while 84 percent are very or somewhat likely to recommend participation to others.

More reasons to step up for a clinical trial as soon as you’re diagnosed:

  1. While outcomes are never guaranteed, the therapy being tested could very well improve your symptoms and/or extend your life. By the time it’s approved for testing in people, each drug has already been rigorously vetted through other research. Scientists and drug companies don’t spend time and money on such products unless they show clear potential for improving what’s already on the market. Further, when new treatments are approved, participating patients are among the first to regularly receive and benefit from them.
  2. If you’re in a control group that doesn’t receive the new therapy, you’ll still be treated with the most effective treatment currently available — not given a placebo.
  3. Due to the importance of such trials, you may be subject to superior imaging, molecular testing, surgical and/or advanced chemotherapy protocols not typically offered in other medical settings. Your health will be closely monitored, with a priority on safe standards of care.
  4. You’ll be furthering science for others struggling with your same diagnosis and symptoms, perhaps eventually improving their life spans and/or quality of life. Recent research shows 37 percent of U.S. trialists enroll for such altruistic reasons.
  5. Being part of a group of patients struggling with your condition — and overseen by a team of scientists well versed in its causes and symptoms — can be both empowering and comforting following your diagnosis.
  6. To improve recruiting, many trial sponsors are taking steps to improve patient engagement and make trial experiences seem less clinical. For example, some are matching trialists with trial alumni mentors, inviting alumni to speak at gatherings and/or installing online platforms for trialists and alumni. Others are hiring lay navigators to liaise between patients and staffers, offering patient education, logistical information and emotional support.
  7. Your insurance company may well pay for your trial regimen, while the trial sponsor should pay for trial-related expenses. Studies have shown costs of care for patients in trials are comparable to costs for other patients.
  8. Your commute to your trial site may not be long or inconvenient. While many trials take place at local hospitals, others are held at local clinics, medical centers and doctor’s offices.

When planning out your course of care following your diagnosis, don’t automatically rule out the possibility of starting with a clinical trial. It may be the most important step you ever take.

BlogLindsey Kuhl