Thousands missing out on cancer trials

Friday 19 May, 2017

Thousands of Victorian cancer patients are missing out on potentially life-prolonging treatment as clinical trial participation rates stagnate.

Only about 6% of Victorians with a cancer diagnosis have been recruited to a clinical trial, and rates have remained static for more than a decade.

Cancer Council Victoria CEO Todd Harper said, “The results of clinical trials have proved crucial in improving survival rates and quality of life for people with cancer. Without participants, researchers cannot make these breakthroughs”.  He said that despite the number of trials increasing across the state, more people with cancer are needed to participate in clinical trials. 

“Every advance in cancer care has been the result of people putting their hands up to take part in a clinical trial and help improve outcomes not just for the patients of today but for those in the future.”

To recognise International Clinical Trials Day on May 20th, Mr Harper said it was important to bust some of the myths that could be deterring people from joining a clinical trial.

One misperception is that trials are risky but he stressed that all test treatments go through a rigorous testing program before being used on patients and that trials available in Victorian hospitals are overseen by Human Research Ethics Committees. 

“We understand that there may be concerns around risk but clinical trials are conducted under strict ethical guidelines to ensure the treatments offered are as safe as possible.

“These trials are vital to better understand, diagnose, prevent and treat diseases. They are a gold standard treatment option.”

Mr Harper said many patients are concerned about the randomisation process and not receiving the test treatment, but this is exactly why the clinical trials are being undertaken.  “We don’t know if the new test treatment is better than the standard treatment. Some studies even show that patients in clinical trials have better outcomes than those that aren’t.” 

If people are concerned or have questions about participating in a trial they can call Cancer Council’s 13 11 20 cancer information and support nurses. Cancer Council also has a peer support team who can link people affected by cancer with trained peers who have been through a clinical trial to discuss what to expect.

In 2015, just over 2000 people with cancer were recruited into a cancer clinical trial and there were almost 500 trials open at different sites across Victoria.

To assist people with cancer and their families in accessing trials, Cancer Council Victoria has enhanced its Victorian Cancer Trials Link (VCTL) website .

The site is now a user-friendly portal that allows people to search every treatment trial across the state, including those run out of rural and regional hospitals. 

“I would encourage any patient, carer, family member or friend of someone diagnosed with cancer to jump on the VCTL site and see what trials are available in their area. It could make all the difference,” Mr Harper said.

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