Improving care through clinical trials

Where would we be without medical advances? Think about medical care 100 years ago. Since then, there’s been an explosion in vaccine development, antibiotics, surgical techniques, medical devices and discovery of medications to treat and control disease. You can look at any medical specialty and ClinicalTrial.fwsee the advances that have been made. Clinical trials represent our era’s research frontier for medical advances.

Why are clinical trials so important?  It’s how we move forward in health care. We can discover what works and what doesn’t. Clinical trials save and improve lives.

April is Cancer Control month and one of the goals of cancer control is improving the care for cancer patients. How is this accomplished?  Advancements in cancer treatment happen through clinical research. The milestones that have been made over the last 40 years in cancer care are due to research and a patient’s willingness to participate.

These are just a few of the advancements that have been made over the last four decades:

  • The 5-year survival rate for all childhood cancer combined is now approximately 81%, compared to 62% in 1975
  • 5-year survival for adults is now 68% compared to 50% in 1975
  • Approval of cancer vaccines: The FDA has approved both prevention and treatment  vaccines
  • Targeted therapies: The FDA has approved approximately 30 molecularly targeted therapies like Herceptin, Avastin and Gleevec
  • Improvement in radiation therapy techniques and modes of delivery to improve outcomes and decrease side effects
  • Combined chemotherapy is now the standard of care for many types of cancer. It has increased survival and cures rates for many types of cancer
  • Improvements in side effect management such as nausea, vomiting and mouth sores

Progress in quality of cancer care can be accomplished on many fronts:

  • preventing disease
  • increasing screening and early detection
  • developing better treatment options
  • improving quality of life by controlling side effects of treatment
  • developing less toxic and invasive treatments

The following video chronicles LeElla’s story, a young woman diagnosed with breast cancer. LeElla participated in a clinical study and was able to preserve her fertility and have a healthy baby boy after undergoing treatment.  You can see LeElla’s story here.

Fewer than 5% of adult cancer patients participate in clinical studies. But progress can’t be made without research., so think about participating in research. There are hundreds of studies open here at the University of Michigan alone, including studies for healthy volunteers.

Take the next step:

  • Learn more about clinical trials and why they are so important.
  • Learn how to volunteer for a U-M clinical trial.
  • Visit this resource page from the American Society of Clinical Oncology on major milestones in the care and treatment of people with cancer.
  • Call our cancer nurses at the Cancer AnswerLine™ if you still have questions. Call 1-800-865-1125 or e-mail from anywhere in the country. Nurses are available 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., ET, Monday through Friday. Your call is always free and confidential.

KimZThe Cancer AnswerLine™ nurses are experienced in oncology care, including helping patients and their families who have questions about cancer. These registered oncology nurses are available by calling 800-865-1125 Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. Your call is always free and confidential.



University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer CenterThe University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center’s 1,000 doctors, nurses, care givers and researchers are united by one thought: to deliver the highest quality, compassionate care while working to conquer cancer through innovation and collaboration. The center is among the top-ranked national cancer programs, and #1 in Michigan for cancer patient care. Seventeen multidisciplinary clinics offer one-stop access to teams of specialists for personalized treatment plans, part of the ideal patient care experience. Patients also benefit through access to promising new cancer therapies.