New treatments, for any type of cancer, take a while to create. First medical scientists need to create a hypothesis, then they need to test the hypothesis to see if it works in theory, and after that, they test the treatment on people. Even then, doctors can’t have the treatment until the FDA approves the results.
All in all, the process takes a long time. However, we are currently in phase 2 for a lot of lung cancer new treatment trials.
Let’s explain what this means.
How clinical trials help create new treatments
Clinical trials are a type of research study. Participants are asked to join the trial if they have a specific medical condition. After being told the risks, they will be offered treatment such as medical advice, medicine, or even surgery.
A clinical trial aims to see if the new treatment has more benefits than the current options, and creates fewer side effects.
Sometimes the results show the same amount of benefits with different side effects, but this is considered a positive. When the side effects are different, it allows those with multiple medical needs to have options. With these options, they can prevent stacking or worsening their other conditions.
For example, if they already suffer from nausea, and the new treatment doesn’t produce that side effect, the patient can swap to a new medication to lower the nauseous feeling.
4 Phases in a clinical trial
There are four phases to a clinical trial:
- Phase one has a small group of healthy individuals – normally around 20–80. These participants are given the experimental treatment to learn about dose safety and side effects. Because these healthy participants don’t have any conditions, any reactions can be easily connected to the new treatment.
- In phase two, the participant size increases to around 200. In this group, the individuals have the condition or disease in question. When they are given the treatment, the scientists are looking for how effective the medication is. This phase can last years depending on what the condition is and how they expect the treatment to work.
- With safety and effectiveness noted, phase three adds complications. Many people have more than one condition or disease, which means they take more than one medication. During this phase, the scientists study 3,000 people to see how the treatment reacts to other medications. Effectiveness and safety are the main topics of this phase, monitoring where bad reactions occur and if certain medications nullify each other. For the FDA to judge the treatment positively, it needs to show useability in all three stages.
- However, there is one more phase left: phase four. Once the FDA approved the treatment, it can be monitored on a large scale filled with a diverse population. It’s during this time that long-term side effects can be established.
A new lung cancer treatment, still in clinical trial phase
At the moment, the treatments for lung cancer are radiation therapy, chemotherapy, surgery, and targeted therapy.
Immunotherapy is still in phase four of its clinical trials. This means it has been approved by the FDA, but research is still needed to understand the long-term effects of the treatment.
Immunotherapy is when cancer patients take an immune checkpoint inhibitor drug. This drug finds the immune system cells in your body and blocks them with proteins. This method stops your body from producing the antibodies which are attacking your body and producing tumors.
So far, scientists have created 5 drugs for this method – Pembrolizumab, Nivolumab, Durvalumab, Cemiplimab, and Atezolizumab.
The issue around this treatment comes down to how it works. If your cancer isn’t creating a tumor through an overactive immune system, then the medication won’t work. However, lung cancer is often created in this way, which is why researchers are focusing on this treatment for lung cancer patients.
How you can get involved
If you have been diagnosed with lung cancer, or simply want to help those with the disease, you can help the research by participating in clinical trials. You can use the link above to find trials in your area, and what phase they are in.
Lung cancer affects millions every year. Although it may seem like very little is being done to boost treatments, there are thousands of medications going through clinical trials.
You don’t need to be a scientist to help in the battle against cancer. Being a participant in a clinical trial will make you a pinnacle part of the fight.
David Tobin did his degree in psychology at the University of Hertfordshire. He is interested in mental health, wellness, and lifestyle.