Clinical trials could help West Michigan cancer patients

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich (WOOD) A brand new facility just opened in West Michigan that will bring new opportunities for those living with cancer. Cancer and Hematology Centers of Western Michigan is partnering with START to offer clinical trials for early-phase anti-cancer drugs.

Every drug that is used in medical practice has to go through a rigorous evaluation process before being “FDA approved” for a given condition. In a clinical trial, new drugs or medical devices are tested in humans to see if they are safe and effective.

Clinical trials can be considered at every stage of cancer treatment, but very few people end up on clinical trials (less than 5% of all cancer patients). Before starting any cancer-specific therapy, patients should thoroughly evaluate the risk and benefits that they may achieve by “standard.” If the potential benefit is not perceived to be meaningful, then clinical trials should be considered.

There are different phases of clinical trials. Cancer and Hematology Centers of Western Michigan is partnering with START out of San Antonio, Texas, in a new Phase 1 clinic. Phase 1 is the most important step in the development of a new drug or therapy. During this phase, a treatment’s safety, dosage, and side effects are determined. The goals of Phase I trials are to figure out what the body does to the drug and to figure out what the drug does to the body.

Due to the partnership, advanced cancer patients in Western Michigan will have first-ever access to medicines early in their development which could be their only hope for treatment.

For people who are skeptical of being in a trial, former President Jimmy Carter was recently treated with an FDA-approved drug developed through a START phase 1 clinical trial. The drug, Keytruda, an immunotherapy agent that uses the body’s immune system to fight the cancer, is now being used to treat metastatic melanoma as part of the standard of care.

The list of FDA-approved drugs START has been involved with “reads like a who’s who of phenomenal drugs we’ve had in cancer.  START, has had direct, hands-on involvement with the clinical development of more than 19 anticancer drugs that, in the past 18 years, have obtained FDA approval and are now considered a part of standard of care.

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