It’s frightening to receive a cancer diagnosis. But there is more hope than ever before: clinical trials have been a key part of cancer patients living longer with better outcomes. Dr. Peter Yu is physician-in-chief at the Hartford HealthCare Cancer Institute, a charter member of the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Alliance. He talks about the importance of cancer clinical trials, and what they mean for cancer care, both now and in the future.
Q: What is the impact of clinical research – particularly cancer clinical trials – in patient treatment today?
A: There are more patients being cured and living longer than ever before. But that’s a testament to the clinical trials that have been going on for the past few decades. Without those clinical trials, we would not have the treatments that are working so well today. And we need to continue to do clinical trials because we need to continue to have better treatments and have patients live longer and with better quality of life.
Q: What is your response to patients and their family members who may be afraid of the phrase “clinical trial?”
A: I would say the number one worry that people have about clinical trials is placebo. They will ask “How do I know that I’m not gonna get some dummy treatment or sugar pill?”
The fact of the matter is that that is very, very rare today because of all the successes we’ve had in treatment. So it’s almost unthinkable that there would be no option whatsoever. What we often do today is a randomization, where the patient will get some treatment versus some experimental treatment. And that some treatment is what we call the current standard of care, or the best available care to our knowledge, but it’s usually not the best treatment that we hope to have someday. Every patient with cancer, working together with their healthcare team, with other patients around the country to advance cures.