Many of us know that malignant mesothelioma is very difficult to treat. Dr. Giovanni Gaudino is a prominent Italian medical researcher who collaborates with the Cancer Research Center of Hawai’i. He talked to Galiher DeRobertis Waxman about mesothelioma treatment and the hope his research offers. He said:
“… since this cancer is so aggressive, since the incidence of this cancer is increasing . . . we have to go fast to find new therapies, effective therapies. And the only way to do that is to foster as much as possible clinical trials. I know that clinical trials . . . can be seen as an experiment on humans . . . And for individuals this could be hard to accept . . . to be part of an experiment. But at this point, clinical trials, I think, are the best way to try something new to get rid of this disease.”
Clinical trials are of paramount importance in the search for a cure for malignant mesothelioma. There is general agreement that in most cases, conventional therapies are not working. Time is of the essence, but it takes a very long time for new therapies to be approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the United States. The story is the same in Europe and in India – it takes a long time to approve a new treatment. Clinical trials are a chance for Hawai’i patients to be exposed to novel therapies. In some instances, existing, approved drugs are repurposed in new combinations.
To find a list of clinical trials, you can go to the National Cancer Institute’s (NCI) website. With almost 100 clinical trials listed on this site, all with different drug combinations and approaches, this can be confusing. How do you decide which therapy is the best?
You may wonder if one clinical trial is better than all others. This is not the case. Cancers, and mesothelioma in particular, come in many different forms. As a result, no one therapy is right for all patients. One therapy may be effective for one patient, or one population of patients, but not for others who may find other therapies are more effective.
The evaluation and initial determination of whether one qualifies for a particular clinical trial is an important discussion a patient must have with his or her physician. In general, patients must be carefully selected for these trials. Patients must meet certain criteria to participate in any given study. You cannot simply choose a clinical trial. You must be evaluated by physicians to see if you have the right “markers” for enrollment in the clinical trial. While enrollment in clinical trials offers no guarantee that they will work, all patients should be encouraged to consider them.