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The 'Anatomy' of Clinical Trials: 'Grey's' Season Finale Leaves Public in the Dark About the Myths and Realities
Date:5/22/2008

Coalition of Cancer Cooperative Groups sheds light on the fact that cancer clinical trials like those on Grey's Anatomy are not just 'do or die.'

PHILADELPHIA, May 22 /PRNewswire/ -- With the past several episodes and two-hour season finale of "Grey's Anatomy" centered on the emotional sagas of cancer clinical trial patients and their doctors, the subject tops the list of the country's healthcare "hot topics." While "Grey's" has done a service in making the public aware that cancer clinical trial options exist, the concern is that the drama which makes for a compelling prime-time show doesn't allow for an accurate, nor complete, portrayal of the role clinical trials play in guaranteeing continued progress in the fight against cancer.

The season finale this Thursday will only contribute to the negative perception being portrayed on the show that cancer "clinical trials" usually equal a "death sentence."

"Cancer clinical trials are highly-structured and follow a well-defined protocol with careful supervision," said Robert L. Comis, MD, President and Chairman of the Coalition of Cancer Cooperative Groups. "Trials can provide patients at all stages of cancer with the most cutting-edge medical treatment, the highest level of care and the possibility of more effective therapy than if they went the standard course. A clinical trial is a treatment option to be considered at the point of diagnosis-not only a last-ditch effort when all other options are exhausted."

A clinical trial is a carefully monitored medical research study in which people participate to test new methods of prevention, screening, diagnosis, or treatment of a disease. The majority of patients who participate in cancer clinical trials do so in phase III studies, which are designed to evaluate whether a new treatment or procedure is more effective than the current standard of care.

The knowledge gained through cancer clinical trial research has helped scientists and doctors develop new ways to slow, halt, cure and prevent cancer. However, of the 1.3 million people who will be diagnosed with cancer this year, only 3 to 5 percent of adults will participate in cancer clinical trials.

The Coalition of Cancer Cooperative Groups is a nonprofit organization with a goal to improve the quality of life and survival of cancer patients by increasing participation in cancer clinical trials as treatment options-not last-hope efforts. As a non-profit, the Coalition offers the added benefit of providing non-biased cancer clinical trial information.

At the core of the Coalition's service is their online TrialCheck(R), the nation's premier free cancer clinical trials navigation and matching service offering the most up-to-date source of cancer clinical trial information. Used by organizations such as American Cancer Society, American Society of Clinical Oncology, the state of Georgia, and soon The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, the award-winning TrialCheck is accessible to more than 3 million patients and caregivers each month.

"Clinical research has led to almost all cancer treatments used today," said Comis. "Because of the knowledge gained through clinical trials, approximately two-thirds of cancer patients survive at least five years after diagnosis, compared with only fifty percent in the 1970s. We need to keep reinforcing this fact and encouraging patients and their physicians to look at all the options when facing a cancer diagnosis."

Advances identified through clinical trials include: Cancer screening techniques, such as mammograms; adjuvant chemotherapy (chemo after surgery); therapies targeting genetic and molecular defects that make a cell cancerous; Cancer vaccines and "chemoprevention" drugs; profiling of cancer genes; and new insights into the long-term health of cancer survivors, who are at greater risk of heart problems, second cancers and other health issues.

Certainly, misperceptions about the negativity of clinical trials for treating cancer patients existed before Grey's, but the episodes have heightened the dynamic, making now the crucial time to set the record straight ... to debunk the myths and reinforce the fact that only patient participation in clinical trials will guarantee continued progress in the fight against cancer.

"Cancer clinical trial patients do not need to fear the possibility of not receiving treatment ... placebos are never given in place of treatment when an existing standard therapy exists," said Comis. "Our goal right now is to provide the public with the knowledge that helps them distinguish entertainment fiction from the reality of cancer clinical trial benefits."

About the Coalition of Cancer Cooperative Groups

The Coalition of Cancer Cooperative Groups is the nation's only nonprofit organization of its kind, devoted solely to the improvement of patient access to cancer clinical trials. Comprised of members from the 10 National Cancer Institute-sponsored Cooperative Groups, dozens of patient advocacy organizations and 8,000 oncology and cancer research specialists, the Coalition is helping to increase awareness of cancer clinical trials as a treatment option through information and services at http://www.CancerTrialsHelp.org .


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SOURCE The Coalition of Cancer Cooperative Groups
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