Clinical trials are a requirement, for any new drug or treatment method attempting to gain approval for public use. The process is meant to show the effectiveness, safety, stability and repeatable nature of the proposed treatment, in order to prove that it works. Clinical trials are a long, intensive process that takes years and millions of dollars to complete. In fact, it is believed that the average drug costs $1.3 billion, to bring it to the point of sale, and as much as $11 billion.
There is often a large disconnect between research being performed and the public. Just as the average person knows more about non-profit cancer organizations and charities than cancer research companies, most individuals only come across research used in newspapers and magazines: coverage that is often exaggerated. We’d like to take the time to look at a couple misconceptions about clinical trials that you will often see in the news.
Unfortunately, that new “miracle drug” or magic bullet has likely not undergone much testing. Recently, we’ve noticed quite a few articles making claims about miraculous treatment options and drugs that were tested only a handful of times (sometimes, even just once), yet positioned in the news as though it were tested and available to the public. While this by no means indicates that excitement isn’t warranted when a new cancer-fighting option appears, you should use your judgement and read a little deeper. Oftentimes, once you get past an exaggerated headline, there can be a wealth of information that is more accurate.
Trial Stage and Timing
Quite often, many drugs and treatment options that will receive a large amount of praise from the press will be in the early stages of development. This means that, in the grand scheme of things, they have a very long way to go, before the FDA will consider them. Careful language should be used, when talking about treatments that are in such an early stage, as it is important to not make false claims about the effectiveness of the research subject. Many proposed treatment options in the past that were portrayed as marvels of modern science by the news were actually turned down by the FDA, for not meeting standard practices, being effective enough a treatment option, or not being safe enough for human use.
We find it very important to both encourage people fighting cancer and educate everyone on cancer risk, prevention and the science behind treatment. Discussing proposed treatment options and recent findings are good ways to raise awareness about new sciences and get people thinking about their health but, more often than not, the proposed methods you are seeing are years away from even the possibility of people having access to them – outside of the controlled clinical trial environment. One of the most important indicators is which phase the trial is currently running in. Here is a basic overview by the U.S National Library of Medicine.
Does it “Cure” Cancer?
The term “cure” can be a very dangerous one. It is a very loaded word that is difficult to apply to cancer, as the disease is so distinct from other illnesses we have encountered. You may have noticed that research and pharmaceutical companies working on cancer treatments do not use this word, in any of their official documentation. When it is used by non-profit organizations or larger media outlets, it often refers to the larger cancer research industry and the long-term goal of finding more effective ways of researching and treating this terrible illness.
While “cure” carries with it a lot of hope and a lot of goodwill, it is important to let people know that what cancer treatments do is treat the illness. With the unique way cells become cancerous, through genetic damage and other means, we can kill cancer cells, but the chance of the cancer resurfacing is always a possibility. This is why those who have been treated for cancer are advised to attend at least annual check-ups, to make sure their cancer has not come out of remission.
With our most recent release results from our Phase II trial for metastatic melanoma, we are encouraged to move forward. More information from the trial will be shared, when they become available. At OncoSec, we try to be forthcoming and approachable, when it comes to our research methods and responsibility to those fighting late-stage skin cancers. We look forward to the coming months and years, as we continue to work towards researching potential treatment options for these diseases.