Nov 23, 2012

Children and Cancer Clinical Trials

Cancer in children and teenagers is relatively rare, making up only about 1 percent of all cancer cases in the U.S. But according to the National Cancer Institute, that still means more than 12,000 children in the U.S. under the age of 15 will be diagnosed with cancer this year. Cancer is the second leading cause of death for children—after accidental injuries. During the past 20 years, the childhood cancer 5-year survival rate has dramatically increased from 60 percent to more than 80 percent.
Childhood cancers are usually quite different from adult cancers. They often form in parts of the body that are still growing and changing, such as the blood system, brain, nervous system, and kidneys. There is no known cause for most childhood cancers. Leukemias (blood cell cancers) and cancers of the brain and central nervous system account for more than half of all childhood cancers. Pediatric (childhood) cancers tend to be more aggressive than adult cancers.

In stark contrast to adult participation in clinical trials (less than 5 percent) well over half of all children with cancer participate in clinical trials. Improvements in treatment developed in clinical trials account for the rapid improvement in survival rates.  Today, 80% of kids with cancer survive for at least 5 years.  Cancer deaths in kids have been cut in half in the last 3 decades. 

According to ASCO, the American Society of Clinical Oncology, many pediatric clinical trials are focused on new treatments, evaluating whether a new treatment is safe, effective, and possibly better than the current (standard) treatment. These types of studies evaluate new drugs, different combinations of existing treatments, new approaches to radiation therapy or surgery, and new methods of treatment. Researchers also focus on easing symptoms, reducing toxic side effects, and reducing side effects that may occur after treatment has been completed. 

Clinical trials have made a major contribution to the many advances in treating childhood cancer.

To put a smile on your face see Larry's latest cartoon

(c) 2012 Tom Beer and Larry Axmaker

Nov 16, 2012

Do physicians stand in the way of patient participation in clinical trials?

We've talked a bit about things that keep patients from choosing to participate in cancer clinical trials, but what about their doctors?  Well, there are barriers on the physician side to.  In an article recently published in Oncology Times, I review some of these barriers and offer a bit of a call to arms to the oncology community. 

According to the NCI, physician barriers include: lack of awareness of appropriate clinical trials, unwillingness to “lose control” of a patient’s care, belief that standard therapy is best, belief that referring and/or participating in a clinical trial adds an administrative burden, and concerns about the person’s care or how the person will react to the suggestion of clinical trial participation.  To learn more about it, take a look at the article in Oncology Times.

To put a smile on your face see Larry's latest cartoon.
To learn more about clinical trials, take a look at our book.

(c) 2012 Tom Beer and Larry Axmaker

Nov 9, 2012

Why don’t THEY (people with cancer) join a clinical trial?

 …so I can get cured

I’m sure (pretty sure) that everyone with cancer wants to be cured. Or at the very least to have their cancer stopped from growing. I sure do.

At the same time, the vast majority of adults with cancer do not to participate in clinical trials—the way new drugs are tested and ultimately approved and made available to you and me.

What’s wrong with this picture? We seem to live in a culture of “let somebody else do it.”
·        If only the government would…
·        THEY should improve education…
·        My doctor should make me feel better…

In the realm of cancer clinical trials, having cancer is usually a prerequisite to participation. There are 12 million of us in the U.S. living with cancer. Yet, many clinical trials are delayed or are never even started because not enough of THEM (people with cancer) volunteer to participate.

Not everyone with cancer is a good candidate for a clinical trial. But many thousands who might be good candidates never hear about clinical trials or may not seriously consider the possibility of volunteering. Fortunately, many thousands do volunteer and many trials are successfully completed.

Where do you stand? Could there be a clinical trial in your future? Should there be?

To put a smile on your face see Larry's latest cartoon.
To learn more about clinical trials, take a look at our book.
(c) 2012 Tom Beer and Larry Axmaker

Nov 3, 2012

US health care costs: where are we getting our money's worth

A recent article on the PBS website by Jason Kane provides a thorough and thoughtful discussion on US health care costs and how they compare to other countries.  

We spend considerably more on healthcare than everyone else, including other rich countries, and in most areas we do not seem to get our money's worth.  Our health and our longevity are no better than others who spend much less.  In many areas of medicine, we do more procedures and more tests than the rest of the world, but don't seem to get better results.

So are there any areas where we do get some bang for our buck?

Yes there are.  The author points out that cancer outcomes are better in the US than anywhere else and these are important outcomes, like survival!  The other area where we lead the world in is medical research.  There are currently 119,469 clinical trials underway in the United States, far more than any other country.  In addition to that, new drugs and devices get approved faster in the US than most other places.  Yes, you heard that right. 

We need to get better value for the health care dollars that we spend, but it's great to know that there is one area where we appear to get our money's worth and that is cancer care.  

To put a smile on your face see Larry's latest cartoon.
To learn more about clinical trials, take a look at our book.

(c) 2012 Tom Beer and Larry Axmaker