Clinical trials are extremely important scientific studies that are needed and required to assess new medical treatments, including treatments for diseases like lymphoma. This article explores the reasons why clinical trials are necessary, what exactly they are, and how people with lymphoma can benefit from clinical trials.
Improved Lymphoma Survival Rates
According to the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society,1 approximately 761,659 people are living with or are in remission from lymphoma in the United States alone. This includes 177,526 people living with Hodgkin lymphoma and 584,133 people living with non-Hodgkin lymphoma. Fortunately, survival rates for people with Hodgkin lymphoma have greatly increased over time, and this is largely due to the approval of treatments that were assessed via clinical trials.
Based on Leukemia and Lymphoma Society statistics1, the five-year survival rate for Hodgkin lymphoma has more than doubled, from 40 percent for whites in the early 1960s to 87.7 percent for all races in the 2000s. The five-year survival rate for people with non-Hodgkin lymphoma has risen from 31 percent in the 1960s (whites) to 71.4 percent in the 2000s (all races). For individuals with Hodgkin lymphoma who were less than 45 years old when they were diagnosed, the five-year survival rate is extremely high, at an estimated 93.7 percent. In fact, Hodgkin lymphoma is currently one of the most curable forms of cancer. This success can be attributed to the availability of effective medical treatments. Treatments include chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and biologic therapy or transplants, depending on the type of lymphoma a person has and on the stage of the disease. The availability of many of these proven lymphoma treatments, however, was made possible only via the process of researchers conducting clinical trials.
Continued Need For New Treatments
Despite successes in treatment, lymphomas still result in fatalities. In 2014, an estimated 20,170 people died from lymphoma, 1,180 from Hodgkin lymphoma and 18,990 from non-Hodgkin lymphoma1. Clearly, although current treatments have notably reduced lymphoma deaths and improved survival, better treatments are still greatly needed — and wanted. Clinical trials are a necessary and required mechanism for testing and approving new treatments, so that they can be available for those who need them. In fact, clinical trials are essential to advancing lymphoma research and treatment.
Clinical Trials for Lymphoma Explained
But what exactly are clinical trials? Clinical trials are well-designed studies that collect information about new treatments for diseases and disorders. Most of the time this means medications, but clinical trials can also test other things, such as stem cell therapies, surgical techniques, tests for diagnosis, or medical devices. In particular, clinical trials focus on administering an experimental therapy in humans, as opposed to animals. Animal testing — or the testing on cells in a dish (in vitro) — is conducted first in the lab and is typically referred to as “pre-clinical research,” or research occurring before a clinical trial involving patients begins.
Clinical Trials Are Required for the Approval of New Treatments
What exactly is it that makes a clinical trial so necessary? Can’t doctors just start using a medication based on any study that shows it is effective? The answer to this is, of course, no. Clinical trials are necessary for medical treatments to be approved by government organizations, such as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Without carefully designed and performed clinical trials, doctors and other healthcare providers (such as nurse practitioners or physician’s assistants) cannot prescribe medications or recommend other medical treatments. These studies are needed to understand two important types of information: 1) that the treatment is effective (also called efficacious), i.e., that it really works, and 2) that the treatment is safe for use in humans.
Clinical Trials Advance Scientific Knowledge, Assure Efficacy & Safety
In addition to helping patients by making the best possible treatments available, clinical trials also advance scientific understanding of a disease or disorder.
It is important to make sure that a new drug is more effective than existing treatments, actually works in a disease, and that it is safe. Decisions to give drugs or other medical treatments have to come from scientific data, not just the opinion of a healthcare provider, patient, or other individual. Clinical trials help to assure all of these things.
Despite successes with the treatment of lymphomas, new treatments — and new studies — are still needed. Clinical trials are a necessary mechanism that can help advance research, and they are legally required step for new treatments to advance and eventually to be approved for use by physicians and their patients.
Be sure to stay tuned to Dr. Alisa Woods’ exclusive, ongoing series of articles on clinical trials for Lymphoma — exclusively at Lymphoma News Today. Her next article will explore how lymphoma clinical trials work, and what you need to know about how they are managed and what they seek to accomplish.
- http://www.lls.org/facts-and-statistics/facts-and-statistics-overview#Hodgkin (HL) and Non-Hodgkin (NHL) Lymphoma