Clinical Trials & Cholangiocarcinoma
Today I had the privilege of joining a Webinar sponsored by the Cholangiocarcinoma Foundation. First, kudos to these good folks for sponsoring Jack Welch, M.D., Ph.D. of the National Cancer Institute’s Division of Cancer Treatment and Diagnosis. Dr. Welch gave an informative lecture on the ABC’s of Clinical Trials.
I won’t go into all of the details discussed, but some statistics Dr. Welch cited caught my attention: There are approximately 5,000 new cases of biliary tract cancer diagnosed in the U.S. per year. Contrast this to the 146,00 new cases of Colon Cancer per year or the 219,000 cases of lung cancer and you can easily see why there are not as many clinical trials on biliary cancers like cholangiocarcinoma (CCA). More disturbing is the fact that only approximately 3% of U.S. Adult cancer patients participate in clinical trials. Compare this to 90% of children diagnosed with leukemia participating in clinical trials.
However, this is not a reason to lose hope! Despite the relative rarity of CCA and the fact that it has typically carried with it a poor prognosis, new treatments have come to the forefront recently. More are regularly being developed, including treatment trials on known chemotherapeutic entities, new combinations of known drugs as well as novel entities in development. In addition, there are non-chemo treatments such as SIRS-Spheres (Radioactive micro glass beads inserted directly into a tumor), transplantation, unique surgical approaches, stents and other palliative measures that are also under investigation. For a complete listing of clinical trials for cholangiocarcinoma, I recommend you regularly check the NIH’s web site http://clinicaltrials.gov/ct2/home and in the search box in the upper right corner, type cholangiocarcinoma and then hit enter. A search today turned up 79 results. Not all of these were actively recruiting and some had actually been withdrawn, but it gives you a broad view of what research is ongoing for CCA. The important point is to search this government database on a regular basis (even if you have begun therapy) as it is constantly being updated. Talk to your physician about the appropriateness of participating in a clinical trial. Remember, in most clinical trials the cost of the therapy under investigation is free to the patients. There may be costs with associated testing such as pregnancy tests, etc. If getting to a center for a clinical trial is a problem, there are resources available to assist patients accessing clinical trials such as Angel Flight. Good luck and remember to be your own advocate!