Clinical Trials: How Can Patients Benefit More?

Sharing of data from clinical trials could help accelerate progress against cancer.These days the media hype around cancer “breakthroughs” seems to have reached a new high. There have been advances, but there is still such a long way to go before we can say we have real breakthroughs that are changing the outlook for most patients.

There are likely many reasons why progress is so slow. But one thing that would almost certainly make a big difference is if there were true collaboration among researchers conducting clinical trials.

Clinical trials are expensive and time consuming. Patients in clinical trials have chosen to participate not just for their own benefit but also to make a contribution for the greater good. And yet, the knowledge we as a society draw from many clinical trials is often incomplete or even nonexistent.

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How Could a Blood Test Be Used Soon in Breast Cancer Care?

Can we detect breast cancer with a blood test or liquid biopsy?We’ve heard a lot in the news over the last year about how researchers are working to develop a blood test to detect cancer, sometimes referred to as a “liquid biopsy”.

What should we make of all this? A blood test, whether for early detection or to aid in treatment and monitoring, would be a wonderful development. But how close are we really?

As I headed to San Antonio for the annual Breast Cancer Symposium in December, I wondered what we might hear there about progress toward a liquid biopsy for breast cancer. I’ve shared some highlights from the Symposium in a recent post. In this post, I’ll share my impressions from the Symposium on where things stand with work toward a liquid biopsy for breast cancer. Continue reading

The I-SPY 2 Breast Cancer Trial: How Clinical Trials May Be Changing

Three pill bottles spilling.It takes a very long time–thirteen years on average–for a new cancer drug to be developed, go through the standard clinical trials process and become available for patients.

Only a fraction of oncology drugs studied in clinical trials are successful. And the cost is extremely high at hundreds of millions of dollars to bring one new drug to patients. These facts, and the reasons behind this dysfunctional process, are discussed by Clifton Leaf in his book, “The Truth in Small Doses,” which I recently reviewed.

What can be done to bring better therapies to patients more quickly? One approach that is being tested is called “adaptive” clinical trial design.

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San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium 2013: What Did We Learn?

San Antonio skylineThe San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium provides an excellent opportunity to learn about the latest findings in breast cancer research–directly from the researchers. I had attended last year for the first time, and was excited to be able to go to the event again this year.

There were some very intriguing presentations this year about possible new therapeutic approaches that are either now in clinical trials or will be entering them soon. In that vein, I’ll describe two areas of longer-term research that received a significant amount of coverage. Also very noteworthy were two sets of findings that could lead to less toxic treatments for some patients, and one study that could eventually lead to a new prevention strategy for women who are at high risk for breast cancer. Continue reading