Regardless of the cancer stage, cell type, or location of the mesothelioma, the development of new treatments benefits all patients, because it brings us closer to better treatments—and a future cure. If you’ve been diagnosed with mesothelioma, you can take advantage of new treatments researchers are testing in clinical trials.
Benefits of Clinical Trials
Improved Prognosis: The best treatments for mesothelioma started as clinical trials and better survival times for all patients. Current clinical trials are testing the latest therapies that could lead to a cure.
More Treatment Options: Patients who have exhausted all their treatment options (like those who aren’t responding to chemo) can turn to clinical trials for more options.
Covered Costs: Because clinical trials take place at research facilities that seek private and public funding, the research facility typically foots part or all of the bill for treatment in clinical trials.
What are Clinical Trials?
Clinical trials are carefully planned medical studies where researchers develop, test and refine treatments for cancers—including mesothelioma. Several types of clinical trials are available; researchers use each type to concentrate on an important aspect of mesothelioma care. The types of clinical trials include:
Prevention trials: The goal of a prevention trial is to develop and refine methods to prevent cancer from occurring—or coming back. They play a key role in the fight against an aggressive disease like mesothelioma.
Diagnostic trials: In diagnostic trials, researchers make existing treatments better, or try to find new tests that can more accurately diagnose a disease. Diagnostic trials play an important role in research for mesothelioma, because the disease is rare and difficult to distinguish from other cancers.
Treatment trials: During treatment trials, doctors develop and test new treatments, and make traditional treatments more effective.
Quality of life trials: Researchers use quality of life trials to develop and refine palliative treatments that relieve pain caused by symptoms of mesothelioma.
You can participate in any type of clinical trial by speaking with your doctor, who will determine which type works best for your diagnosis. If you haven’t already, consult a doctor who has experience diagnosing and treating mesothelioma. It’s a rare disease, so getting experienced help can increase your chances of finding the right clinical trial for you. You can contact a member of our Patient Help Team to get more information about clinical trials and get help connecting to an experienced doctor—for free.
Your Health and Safety
Medical researchers carefully plan out clinical trials, always putting the health and safety of their patients first. To do so, they follow a detailed outline—officially called a protocol—during each and every trial; it’s put in place to ensure your safety as you take part in the research process. Each protocol is monitored by a committee, the Institutional Review Board (IRB), whose goal is to safeguard the well-being of patients participating in clinical trials.
Experienced doctors also ensure your safety during clinical trials. Mesothelioma requires specialized treatment; for this reason, doctors and nurses who have extensive experience treating the disease run clinical trials studying it. One recently completed clinical trial studying the combination of chemotherapy and surgery was overseen by world-renowned mesothelioma specialist Dr. David Sugarbaker.
How Do Clinical Trials Work?
During the treatment process, you doctor may recommend a few clinical trials that could help improve your prognosis. He or she will review in detail how each prospective trial will affect your quality of life, and let you know what you can expect throughout the process.
If you decide to participate in a clinical trial, your doctor will provide even more detailed information about the procedure in an informed consent form. This form is important, because—along with supplemental information provided by your doctor—it will help you decide if participating in the clinical trial is right for you. An informed consent form may include the following information about the trial:
- The goal of the clinical trial
- How often you’ll have to visit the hospital
- Your rights as a patient, including your right to know about the treatments used in the study, and your right to leave the trial at any time.
It’s important to note that the informed consent form is not a binding contract. You can leave the trial for any reason at any time and don’t need to disclose your reasons to the research team.
The 4 Phases of a Clinical Trial
Any new mesothelioma treatment presented in a clinical trial involving patients has already gone through extensive lab testing. A clinical trial is made up of 4 phases, each providing researchers with information about the mesothelioma treatment and how it can help improve a patient’s prognosis.
Phase 1 Trials: In a Phase 1 trial, researchers test a new treatment in a small group of patients. Their main goal is to determine the safe dosage of a new treatment and the side effects it causes.
Example of a Phase 1 Clinical Trial:
- Intrapleural Measles Virus Therapy in Patients With Malignant Pleural Mesothelioma
- Sponsor – Mayo Clinic Collaborator: National Cancer Institute (NCI)
- Purpose – To study the side effects and best dosage of a measles virus therapy for patients with pleural mesothelioma. Researchers expect that the measles virus therapy will kill mesothelioma cells without damaging healthy cells.
Phase 2 Trials: In a phase 2 trial, researchers focus on making a new treatment safer. The treatment is given to a larger group of people to determine how effective it is.
Example of a Phase 2 Clinical Trial:
- Bevacizumab (Avastin) and Erlotinib (Tarceva) in Previously Treated Mesothelioma
- Sponsor – Dana-Farber Cancer Institute Collaborators: Massachusetts General Hospital University of Chicago
- Purpose – To determine how effective the drugs Avastin and Tarceva are for patients who’ve already been treated with chemotherapy.
Phase 3 Trials: During a phase 3 clinical trial, researchers try to confirm the effectiveness of a treatment, and how effective it is compared to other, more established ones. The information researchers collect during phase 3 also helps them determine the best way to give the treatment to patients once the trial is over.
Example of a Phase 3 Clinical Trial:
- PIT: Prophylactic Irradiation of Tracts in Patients With Malignant Pleural Mesothelioma
- Sponsor – Colin Lunt Collaborator: Christie Hospital NHS Foundation Trust
- Purpose – Researchers are conducting this trial to determine the effectiveness of PIT (prophylatic irradiation of tracts) radiation therapy on patients with pleural mesothelioma.
Phase 4 Trials: Researchers run phase 4 clinical trials after the FDA has approved a treatment. During phase 4, they’ll continue study the side effects and results of a treatment after its widespread use.
Example of a Phase 4 Clinical Trial:
- CryoSpray Ablation™ in Malignant Airway Disease to Determine Safety, and Tissue Effect in the Lung (ICE the MAD)
- Sponsor – CSA Medical, Inc.
- Purpose – To monitor the safety and side effects of cryospray on tissues near the lung.
Finding Clinical Trials
If you’d like to participate in a clinical trial, speak to your doctor about your options. He or she may be able to connect you to current trials in your area. You can also speak to a member of our Patient Help Team; we can review your diagnosis and find a clinical trial that works for you.