Get Involved in Clinical Trials to Aid Cancer Research

PJ Hamel Health Guide
  • So, you have breast cancer. Or your mother’s had it, and you’re scared. A friend died of breast cancer. Or maybe you’ve felt a lump in your breast, and with sinking heart and a panicky mind you’re searching the Internet for information…

    Whatever the specific reason you’re visiting this site, your overarching concern is with breast cancer – how to treat it, avoid it, beat it… how to cure it. Everyone’s goal is for breast cancer to be an inconvenience – not a killer.

    So, how will a cure come about? Through scientific research. Which means proposing and testing hypotheses. The key word being testing.

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    How do you test whether or not a cancer drug will work? You begin with lab rats, sure, but eventually you need to involve the end users: human beings. And that’s where the majority of cancer research in this country hits the skids: scientists simply can’t muster up enough people willing to undergo their tests. 

    It’s not as though the effort isn’t being made. The National Institutes of Health sponsors, a registry of federally and privately supported clinical trials conducted in the United States and around the world. There are currently over 77,000 trials listed on the site, covering everything from intestinal parasites to pregnancy to mental disorders.

    At the time I wrote this, there were 1,441 open clinical trials focusing on breast cancer. Trials looking for volunteers. And sadly, not finding them.

    According to an Aug. 3 New York Times article, many clinical trials never get off the ground. Half are unable to recruit the minimum number of participants needed for meaningful results. More than 20% never attract a single volunteer.


    The search for a cancer cure using the clinical trials process has a lot going against it. Many trials focus on treatment, rather than a cure. Many are simply too small or too narrowly focused to build the body of research.

    And money rears its ugly head, as well. Many doctors don’t support trials, as the time they spend explaining them to patients isn’t reimbursed; a trial can rob a doctor of income derived from drugs, since the government covers the cost of the drugs; and the mountain of (unbillable) paperwork is daunting.

    Who needs the hassle?

    Apparently patients feel the same way: only 3% of adult cancer patients choose to participate in a clinical trial. It means more doctor appointments and perhaps additional uncomfortable treatments, both at a time when you’re scared and sick and desperate to be done with it all.

    Again, who needs the hassle?

    Luckily for those of us interested in curing breast cancer – survivors and healthy women alike – there’s an easy way to get involved: Dr. Susan Love’s Army of Women, a joint effort sponsored by Dr. Love, and the Avon Foundation for Women. The organization’s stated goals are as follows:

    •To recruit one million healthy women of every age and ethnicity, including breast cancer survivors and women at high-risk for the disease, to partner with breast cancer researchers and directly participate in the research that will eradicate breast cancer once and for all.

  • •To challenge the scientific community to expand its current focus to include breast cancer prevention research conducted on healthy women.

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    How does the Army work? Sign up and see. Once you sign up, you’ll receive regular emails detailing studies involving breast cancer. If you qualify for the study and want to participate, simply click “Yes, Sign Me Up.” If not, click “No thanks;” maybe a future study will be right for you.


    The Army may not cut back on the inconvenience of extra doctor’s appointments. But many of us are willing to put in a little extra effort if it means our daughters will live in a world free of breast cancer. And the Army makes it easy.


    And, just by signing up and receiving the emails, you’ll have the satisfaction of knowing that you’re not just sitting around wishing for a cure – you’ve become a volunteer for the cause.

    You’ve joined the Army.


Published On: October 05, 2009