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Trials give hope to patients

To a cancer patient, the best medicine often can be hope. Hope for a better course of action, hope for better medicine, hope for great doctors or hope for what the Comprehensive Cancer Centers of Nevada often can deliver: acceptance into a study for an effective new drug.

CCCN runs about 150 trials a year, about five to 10 breast cancer trials at a time. They are still being completed but have shown excellent results in the specific cancer they are designed to treat. The most successful trials usually lead to FDA approval.

“Patients are sometimes concerned about cancer trials, thinking they are going to be a ‘guinea pig,’ but this is not the case,” said Mary Ann Allison, a medical oncologist at CCCN. “CCCN runs trials that are fully vetted and contribute to the development of advancing newer treatments forward.”

The clinical trials conducted at CCCN are Phase I, Phase II and Phase III. Phase I is to study the best way to give a new treatment and its safety. Phase I is often the first time the specific trial has been tested in a human, outside a laboratory.

Phase II is designed to see if the treatment works. Phase III involves large numbers of patients and divides patients into two groups — a control group and the group receiving the new treatment.

Some of the trials are performed with other centers throughout the country running the same trial, which allows more patients the opportunity to participate. As evidenced by CCCN, these trials can be done in the Las Vegas community.

Clinical trials are available for most cancer types and will usually be specific to certain stages. To have meaningful results, the patients will go through a screening process to be placed on a trial.

EarLEE-1 clinical trial offers a new approach to treating breast cancer after surgery by incorporating a targeted medication.

“It could be groundbreaking and change the way we treat breast cancer adjuvantly,” Allison said.

Because CCCN is regularly running several breast cancer trials at a time, there are often cutting-edge options for patients looking for medical answers.

The trials Allison has participated in and brought to CCCN have improved the standards of breast cancer care. One of her earlier trials led to the confirmation of the drug Paclitaxel, or Taxol, and another participated in a clinical trial that established a new Herceptin regimen that is now considered standard of care, which targets a genetic alteration found in 20 to 25 percent of breast cancer patients every year.

“I encourage all patients if a trial is available to evaluate it. Generally, there is no downside to a trial because you will either get the standard of care or potentially something better,” she said. “This is a great opportunity for patients to participate in a trial that may possibly bring forward a new cancer treatment.”

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