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Cancer Research Month: The Importance of Clinical Trial Accessibility in Urban and Rural Areas Across Texas

June 01, 2022

Texas Oncology, a leader in ground-breaking cancer research and clinical trials in Texas, has contributed to the development of more than 100 FDA-approved cancer fighting therapies thus paving the way for new breakthroughs in cancer care.

In recognition of National Cancer Research Month, we spoke with Noelle Cloven, M.D., gynecologic oncologist at Texas Oncology–Fort Worth Cancer Center, and Shail Dalal, M.D., medical oncologist at Texas Oncology–Palestine Cancer Center, on the evolution of cancer research, how Texas Oncology is playing a role in today’s studies, and what patients should know if they are considering entering into a clinical trial.

1. In your opinion, what is one of the single most important breakthroughs in cancer research to-date and how have you seen it change the course of treatment?

Dr. Cloven: One of the most important breakthroughs has been that cancer patients are now more often treated based on the specific markers and mutations detected in their own cancer versus being treated based on the general cancer type. This has led to patients living longer and having less side effects with treatment. Our approach has evolved to treat the whole patient and tailor a cancer treatment plan unique to them.

Dr. Dalal: There have been many! Recently, many breakthroughs in immunotherapy have changed the way most cancers are treated. In addition, the adoption of targeted therapies, where we can specifically identify the mutation driving the cancer, have increased the effectiveness of treatment, and minimized side effects associated with chemotherapy.

2. Recently, the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) and Association of Community Cancer Centers (ACCC) announced its joint research effort to increase diversity, equity, and inclusion in clinical trial recruitment and participation. What was Texas Oncology's role in this research and how will this study influence the future of clinical trials?

Dr. Cloven: Texas Oncology was one of the 75 sites nationwide selected to participate in this pilot study. The goal of this research is to increase clinical trial accessibility to large diverse groups of patients to ensure results are reflective and applicable to all patients. The data will be used for the future development in improving diversity in clinical trials. Texas Oncology is committed to increasing access to clinical trials locally, so patients don’t have to travel long distances to receive the most up to date care and treatment options.

3. Why is it important to ensure clinical trials are accessible to all cancer patients in your community?

Dr. Cloven: At Texas Oncology, our goal is to offer patients the most current, leading-edge treatments available locally, so they don’t have to travel long distances to large-scale academic centers to have treatment options beyond standard care. We have clinical trials available across the board for many types of cancer at any stage. It’s important that diverse groups of patients participate in clinical trials so that new treatments are effective and have acceptable side effects across geographic and ethnic groups.

Dr. Dalal: With the changing environment and rapid advances in oncology, it is not only important for patients to have access to the best available standard of care, but also the leading-edge
technologies offered through clinical trials that are paving the future of cancer treatment.

4. What are the benefits and risks of taking part in a clinical trial?

Dr. Cloven: Clinical trials provide patients an opportunity to be involved in the development of the next standard of cancer care and contribute to research that leads to FDA approval of new drugs. Many clinical trials are adding targeted therapies to standard treatment based on an individual patient’s cancer. Clinical trials are also closely monitored and often involve measurements of quality of life to determine the effects of cancer treatment on daily life.

Dr. Dalal: The benefits of taking part in a clinical trial include access to leading-edge treatment, which could be a new frontier in fighting cancer, and being one of the first patients who experience an outcome that changes the course of treatment for future patients. Any clinical trial can have unknown risks regarding the effectiveness of treatment or unexpected side effects, which is why we observe our patients closely for any changes.

5. What would you tell a prospective patient considering taking part in a clinical trial at Texas Oncology?

Dr. Cloven: A clinical trial is a wonderful opportunity to help move forward and advance the fight against cancer. Tremendous strides have been made in cancer treatment that allow patients to live longer with a better quality of life. A clinical trial may allow patients to receive new therapies before they are FDA approved. Make sure to ask your physician if there’s a trial available for you and evaluate all options before moving forward with treatment.

Dr. Dalal: If you are interested in taking part in a Texas Oncology clinical trial, we encourage you to do your own research and be fully aware of all the available options offered. We want to ensure all patients feel strongly about their clinical trial options and receive the best standard of care.

For upcoming webinars visit www.TexasOncologyFoundation.org.