Clinical Trials in Canada
New treatments are tested in clinical trials before they are approved for general use. There are safeguards in place to ensure clinical trials are as safe as possible and meet medical ethical standards. Participating in a trial can be a way to have access to potentially helpful new therapies you couldn’t get any other way.
Clinical trials are funded by pharmaceuticals evaluating their new treatments. Therefore, the treatments, tests, and doctor visits are usually paid for and patients are followed very carefully. Clinical trials usually have very specific criteria for the patients who can participate, such as severity or stage of disease and whether and what types of previous treatments you have had.
If you are found to be eligible, most studies will not allow you to choose whether you will be put into the group of patients given the existing standard treatment or the group receiving the new medicine. Often, neither you nor your doctor will be told which treatment you are receiving.
This randomization of what you are assigned to, and blinding of you and your doctor to the treatment you are getting, is an important part of ensuring clinical trials are as free from bias as possible and therefore, ensures the results are as clear as possible.
Some of your questions about clinical trials may be answered by PRE-ACT (Preparatory Education About Clinical Trials), a resource created by the American Society of Clinical Oncology. While PRE-ACT does provide a comprehensive guide to the clinical trial system, be aware that these videos were created for an American audience, and some of the information in them may not be applicable to Canadian patients.
If you are interested in participating in a clinical trial, ask your doctor if there are any appropriate studies available to you.
Finding clinical trials
You can find out about trials for melanoma or other skin cancers from the following website: www.ClinicalTrials.gov.
It’s operated by the United States National Institutes of Health which keeps track of studies being conducted for all types of diseases around the world. Search for trials for your specific cancer and location to see what studies might be open to you, then discuss them with your doctor.
Health Canada operates a similar database for Canadian studies, accessible here.