A healthy living blog from Marshfield Clinic

Major weapons in the fight against cancer

clinical trials graphicYou have cancer. It’s aggressive and growing. You want the most current and effective treatment available.

For many cancers, a clinical trial might be just what you need. Marshfield Clinic physicians have access to hundreds of trials, just as any large, university-based research center has. And yet, most people know little about them.

“I’m sure there are individuals in the community who don’t know what we have here in terms of clinical trials,” said Dr. Adedayo Onitilo, a Marshfield Clinic oncologist and service line director for cancer care. “Our comprehensive cancer trials are one way we differentiate ourselves from other institutions. Nobody else can match us. We even sometimes have studies open that are not available elsewhere.”

Trialing tomorrow’s treatments today

Cancer treatment is always evolving, he said, and with it comes new procedures and medications that must be proven to be effective and safe. Cancer care specialists meet regularly, sometimes every one to two weeks, to review all the latest news about trials.

Onitilo said trials usually compare a new drug therapy against a standard, known therapy. Patients are randomly chosen to receive one or the other.

We always hope the new therapy will be better than the standard therapy. The patient will not be getting anything less effective than the standard treatment, but those receiving the new therapy may get a better result. That’s how we are constantly getting better,” he said.

Clinical trials aren’t for everyone

Not all cancer patients can participate in trials. There may not be a trial for a particular type of cancer or the patient may have other complicating factors. But when a trial shows a new drug is right for a patient, it can have amazing results.

“We’ve had patients with cancer so advanced that we had to tell them we had nothing more to offer,” Onitilo said. “But then a trial opens up and patients can have a remarkable response, giving them many more years of life and even curing the cancer in some cases.”

Personalized medicine is the future

Clinical trials are now moving in the direction of molecular treatment, which involves targeting certain cancer patients’ treatments according to their DNA, or genetic code.

That will be the future of oncology for people with advanced cancer, Onitilo said.

For more information about clinical trials, talk with your doctor.

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