Enrolling in clinical trials should become the standard for cancer care in the United States.

 

That’s one of the conclusions panelists reached during the Florida Policy Forum on Clinical Trials presented by the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network on Tuesday morning at the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville.

Physicians from Baptist MD Anderson Cancer Center, the Mayo Clinic, UF Health Shands Hospital, the University of Miami’s Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center, the Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa and 21st Century Oncology were among the panelists.

“Clinical trials provide access to promising new treatments for our patients and are essential to reduce the cancer burden in our state,” said Tushar Patel, dean for research at Mayo Clinic’s Jacksonville campus. “Events like this one, which includes researchers from the leading cancer institutes across our state, help to remind all of us that improving access to clinical trials must be a priority.”

Clinical trials are studies in which people volunteer to take part in tests of new drugs or procedures.

One issue with enrolling people in clinical trials is that some people “fear we are experimenting on them,” said Brian Slomovitz, co-leader of the gynecologic cancers site disease group at the Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center.

Distrust, lack of transportation, language barriers, lack of education and inadequate health insurance are all barriers that can stand in the way of enrolling people in clinical trials, said Christopher Cogle, a professor at the University of Florida College of Medicine.

One challenge is educating clinicians about clinical trials that might be right for their patients, said Sikander Ailawadhi, senior associate consultant in the Division of Hematology/Oncology at Mayo Clinic.

Enrolling minorities into clinical trials is something “we put a lot of effort into,” said Daniel Sullivan, associate center director of the Moffitt Cancer Center.

Asher A. Chanan-Khan, a Mayo Clinic physician involved in research to find treatments for patients with several cancers including chronic lymphocytic leukemia, drew applause with his statement: “Financially there should be no barrier to enrolling in a clinical trial.”

One of the final speakers was Cynthia Lau, a college student who developed cancer at 13 and enrolled in a clinical trial at 14 after surgery and chemotherapy failed to prevent the spread of her cancer.

By enrolling in a clinical trial “you are not only helping yourself, but you are helping the population at large,” said Lau, who is now eight years cancer free. “A chance of survival goes a long way.”

The National Cancer Institute sponsors most government-funded cancer clinical trials. The NCI has a list of studies currently enrolling patients as well as some privately funded studies at www.cancer.gov/clinicaltrials.

Charlie Patton: (904) 359-4413