Myths around cancer trials need to be dispelled to save lives says consultant oncologist Catherine Kelly at the Mater Misericordiae University Hospital and Mater Private Hospital. She was speaking at an event last night in Dublin.
“There are several myths around trials. One myth is if you get the trial treatment you don’t get the standard treatment at the same time. This is not true,” Dr Kelly told the Irish Examiner.
“Another myth is around side effects but these trial drugs are at a very late stage of development or often they are already approved in another cancer setting,” she added.
Last night’s event ‘Decoding Cancer — Are Patients on Clinical Trials Guinea Pigs?’, was organised by the Irish Cancer Society with Cancer Trials Ireland. Since 1996, Cancer Trials Ireland has seen about 15,000 people go through trials.
Last year alone, there were 154 cancer trials completed or ongoing in Ireland, which involved the participation of 6,000 patients. Dr Kelly said cancer patients have been surveyed about opinions on trials in the past.
“In the Mater we asked cancer patients that were coming in about accessing trials. The response was overwhelmingly positive but they felt they were a last resort, this couldn’t be further from the truth,” she said. In another study, patients were asked about participating in a second trial.
“We carried out a survey in the Mater with some cancer patients and of those who had been on a trial previously, 95% said they would do it again,” said Dr Kelly.
The consultant said from an economic point of view, Cancer Trials Ireland got €3m in State funding and this saves the HSE €6.5m in drug spending. Dr Kelly said the mission of Cancer Trials Ireland was to open up as many high-quality trials here as possible.
Head of research at the Irish Cancer Society, Robert O’Connor, said the amount of people participating in trials here has increased significantly.
“Over the past 10 years the number of patients participating in cancer trials in Ireland has doubled and the number of trials opened has tripled,” Dr O’Connor said.
He echoed the sentiment of Dr Kelly, regarding the myths around trials and the need to dispel them.
“But many have fears about being involved in research themselves and to many cancer patients clinical trials are not seen as an option that is open to them, even though their circumstances may make them a suitable candidate to be involved,” Dr O’Connor said. n
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