Depending on several factors, you may be eligible to participate in clinical trials studying new treatments for myeloma. Clinical trials are the only way that new treatments for myeloma can be tested. Eligibility factors may include what type and stage of myeloma you have, your age, and which treatments you have already received. Good times to consider entering a clinical trial are just after diagnosis, before treatment begins, or before you begin treatment for a relapse.
The goal of phase I clinical trials is to test how a new drug or regimen should be administered and what dosage and frequency is safe and effective, as well as establish side effects. Phase II trials test whether the treatment is effective against myeloma specifically. Phase III trials test the effectiveness of the new treatment against current standard treatments. Phase IV trials may be designed to test long-term results or answer new questions that have arisen about the treatment.
Everyone who participates in a clinical trial receives treatment. Although some people worry that they will receive a placebo, or sugar pill, instead of treatment, the fact is that placebos are not used in clinical trials for cancer. Half of the participants in a study will receive the new, experimental treatment, while the other half will receive the standard treatment currently given for the type of cancer they have. Your treatment will be assigned randomly, and you will not be told which treatment you are receiving.
Clinical trials may test new drugs, new dosages or new combinations of existing drugs; new treatments such as genetic testing to target tumors more precisely; new delivery methods of drugs, such as vaccines; or new formats of treatments such as radiation. Trials may also pair standard treatments with complementary practices such as yoga or acupuncture. Quality-of-life or supportive care trials may be testing new palliative drugs to better control nausea or fatigue during standard cancer treatment. There are also research projects consisting of surveys or interviews with people who have myeloma to better understand their needs, preferences, or decision-making processes.
What all clinical trials have in common is that every participant receives at least the current highest standard of treatment, and that the knowledge gained from the trial may benefit other people with myeloma.
What does it involve?
Before you enroll in a clinical study, read the informed consent form very closely. Ask your doctor or the doctor in charge of the study to explain any portions you have trouble understanding. Pay close attention to descriptions of the potential risks and benefits associated with participation. Work with your medical team to decide whether a clinical trial is right for you.
Do not be afraid to ask questions; it is your right to know what will take place during the trial and what it could mean for you. Consider taking a family member or friend with you to meetings regarding a clinical trial to help take notes and ask questions. Find out what tests and treatments are involved in each step of the clinical trial. Ask about how the treatment being tested differs from the current standard treatments. Find out which costs are covered, and whether you or your insurance company will be expected to pay for the rest. You can ask whether you will still have access to the treatment after the study ends, in case the new treatment proves effective in your case. You may ask to speak to someone who is already participating in the clinical trial about their experiences. You may also want to know how your private medical information will be protected during and after the trial.
You can withdraw from a clinical trial at any time.
The goal of participating in a clinical trial is to receive the highest possible standard of treatment for myeloma, whether that is an existing standard or a new, experimental treatment.
Depending on the clinical trial you are considering applying for, there may or may not already be results available from previous clinical trials. Ask the clinical research coordinator or a nurse or doctor participating in the trial for information about results.
Although the new treatment may be more effective than the standard treatment against some cases of myeloma, it may not be effective in your specific case.
If the new treatment proves effective for you, you may lose access to it after the trial is completed.
The new treatment may cause unforeseen side effects. Although the doctors leading the clinical trial will educate you about known risks, it is impossible to know what might happen with a novel treatment.
Some insurance companies may not cover all costs associated with being in clinical trials. However, any remaining costs will usually be covered by the organization sponsoring the clinical trial. Be sure to ask about costs before enrolling. Find out which medical expenses will be paid by the trial, whether the sponsor will cover any care resulting from injury or damage you may receive as part of the trial, and whether long-term aftercare is included.
Some trials may be located far from your home and necessitate travel.
For more details about this treatment, visit:
Clinical Trial Support Center – Leukemia & Lymphoma Society
Clinical trials and experimental therapies – Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation
Clinical Trials – International Myeloma Foundation
Multiple Myeloma: About Clinical Trials – Cancer.net