Finding a trial, enrolling in it and starting treatment could take anywhere from a few weeks to several months. The time it takes varies greatly depending on many different factors. To give you an idea of what to expect, here are some of the key steps in the process. Everyone’s situation is different – the process below is set as an example.
The first step in the process is collecting the information that’s going to be important for the search process. For example:
- The specific type of disease
- Your age
- What previous treatments you have had
- If you have any other health problems that may need to be considered, for example heart or kidney problems
- Are there any special features of the disease like specific markers of the cancer cells or genetic mutations that have been identified
Some people know all of this information already, so searching can be quick. Others may need to look into their medical records or may have to reach out to their doctor to obtain this information.
Next is the actual clinical trials search. There are over 1,200 clinical trials listed on the Jason Carter Clinical Trials Program website, so knowing the information above can help narrow down the trials that may be a fit for you. Some patients have certain types of treatment they’re interested in. For example, a patient may want to join a trial for a new up-and-coming drug, or maybe they’re only interested in trials that include a blood or marrow transplant (BMT). We would then focus our search on those specific treatments. Other times, we read through all of the trial options and discuss the differences with the patient. Sometimes even with all of that information, a search can lead to hundreds of options. Alternatively, sometimes the search leads to only 1 or 2 trials, and the search time is much quicker.
After the trials that may work have been identified, we always recommend printing out the trial descriptions and having a discussion with your doctor about the benefits and risks of each trial option, as well as if there are any additional options. This can help with the decision-making process and make sure you’re making an informed choice.
If you decide you want to move forward with 1 or more trials, the next step is typically contacting the clinical trial coordinators or doctors. This is done by phone and/or email. This process usually includes multiple conversations between yourself and the trial coordinator in order to understand the treatment journey. The clinical trial doctors will also collect all the information they need from you to make sure you’re eligible for the trial.
If it’s determined that you’re likely eligible for the trial and you’re still interested in joining, there will be additional paperwork and, often times, additional medical tests to make sure the trial is as safe as possible for you to join. Before any tests are done, you’ll also go through an informed consent process with the clinical trial team.
We always recommend checking with your insurance company before joining any trial - they will be able to assist you in figuring out how to pay for the clinical trial. In addition to paying for treatment, there can be travel involved with clinical trials. You may be able to get financial assistance through the Drs. Jeffrey and Isabel Chell Clinical Trial Travel Grant, offered as part of the Jason Carter Clinical Trials Program to pay for travel related expenses.
As you can see, the process can be very complex and time consuming. But we have good news; that’s what we’re here for! From searching for a clinical trial to understanding the differences between one trial or another and finally, helping patients contact a trial - we can help with as much or as little of the process as you’d like. Reach out to one of our patient education specialists, and let us know how we can be of assistance.