CTRC launches community outreach talks on clinical trials

SAN ANTONIO (March 11, 2011) – For the individual patient, clinical trials are a chance to try cutting-edge cancer therapies under close and caring supervision. For the world, clinical trials have the potential to develop new weapons in the fight against cancer.

But many people do not realize that clinical trials are an option or feel uneasy about them. The Cancer Therapy & Research Center (CTRC) is trying to change that.

An outreach team from the CTRC, part of The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, will go into the community to talk about what clinical trials have to offer. The effort was organized by Monica Mita, M.D., clinical research director of the CTRC’s Institute for Drug Development, and funded with a grant from the Shelby Rae Tengg Foundation.

“Fewer than 10 percent of people who have exhausted conventional cancer therapies look into the possibility of a clinical trial, according to the National Cancer Institute,” said Gerardo Medina, R.N., the CTRC’s director of clinical investigations and research nursing, who will join Dr. Mita and others in visiting community centers throughout Bexar County during March and April.

The first talk is scheduled for Tuesday, March 15, at 5:30 p.m., at the Martinez Street Women’s Center, 1510 S. Hackberry St. Another confirmed date is Thursday, April 7, at 9:30 a.m., at the Bob Ross Center, 2219 Babcock Rd.

“All the clinical drugs we have now for cancer were tested years in advance in clinical trials,” said Dr. Mita, assistant professor of medicine at the UT Health Science Center.

Among the myths about clinical trials is that people will be treated as cold research objects whose health and safety are not priorities. It’s quite the opposite, Dr. Mita said.

“Their safety is actually increased because they are observed and followed more closely,” she said.

To get to the clinical trial stage, a drug must first go through extensive laboratory testing. Even then, clinical trials start off slowly, at low doses, to gauge drugs’ effects in patients. Doctors and nurses monitor patients carefully to make sure they are reacting well, often seeing them on a weekly basis throughout the treatment period.

Another fear is that doctor who eager to put patient in research trials will skip known treatments to do so. Strict clinical trial rules dictate that the only patients who can participate in clinical trials are those who have tried all existing approved cancer therapies.

Those strict rules make it clear that a patient does not have to feel “stuck” in a trial, Medina said.

“A patient can choose to come off the study at any point in the study, and if it’s determined that a drug is not working for that person, the doctors will take them off,” he said.

For more information on the talks, contact Gerardo Medina at 210-450-1789.

The Cancer Therapy & Research Center (CTRC) at The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio is one of the elite academic cancer centers in the country to be named a National Cancer Institute (NCI) Designated Cancer Center, and is one of only four in Texas. A leader in developing new drugs to treat cancer, the CTRC Institute for Drug Development (IDD) conducts one of the largest oncology Phase I clinical drug programs in the world, and participates in development of cancer drugs approved by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration. For more information, visit www.ctrc.net.

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