Acute Myeloid Leukemia
Several treatments approved in the past decade are improving the lives of people with AML. Many of these treatments target the unique chromosomal and genetic abnormalities found in AML. After you receive the results of your diagnostic tests and pathology results, discuss your subtype with your doctor and ask whether you may be a candidate for a clinical trial as your first treatment option or at another time.
The ability to identify genetic mutations as well as develop therapies that target those abnormalities has led the way for significant advances in the treatment of AML. Several drugs have been approved in the past decade, resulting in a better quality of life, more hope and better outcomes for people with AML.
With the help of volunteers who participate in clinical trials, researchers are able to gather data that helps them learn more about this unique blood cancer. Gene sequencing is helping to reveal additional genetic abnormalities involved in the development of AML that could be future targets for new therapies.
Researchers are also focusing on making current treatments safer and more effective. Combination therapies of new and existing treatments, such as combining newer targeted therapies with chemotherapy, are also being investigated.
Explaining Clinical Trials
Most of the therapies used to treat cancer today were once studied, evaluated and approved through the clinical trials process. Today, thousands of clinical trials around the world continue to search for new and better ways to prevent, diagnose and treat cancer and its symptoms and side effects by evaluating the following:
- Methods for disease prevention and patient screening.
- Tools and procedures to diagnose disease and understand its prognosis.
- New or improved treatments such as drugs or drug combinations, medical procedures or devices.
- Lifestyle or behavioral changes that may improve health and/or quality of life.
Patient Safety During Trials
Clinical trials rely on volunteers, and protecting their rights, safety and well-being is the top priority for clinical researchers. Safety guidelines have been established to ensure every patient who joins a clinical trial is protected.
Several levels of safeguards and a set of rules called a protocol must be followed for every clinical trial. A protocol defines a clinical trial’s eligibility criteria, specifies the tests and procedures, describes the medications and dosages, and establishes the duration of the study.
Before the study begins, a scientific review panel evaluates the protocol carefully to make sure the trial is based on sound science. Regardless of their size or location, all clinics, hospitals, universities, cancer centers and medical offices that conduct clinical trials must follow the same protocol.
Another safeguard is the Informed Consent process. The Informed Consent form contains all the details about the trial. You will be given that form when you are considering a specific trial so you can make an informed decision about volunteering.
Is a Clinical Trial for You?
Before making decisions, it is important to understand clinical trials and how they may contribute to your overall treatment plan. A clinical trial may offer one or more of the following benefits:
- Access to state-of-the-art cancer treatments that are not yet otherwise available.
- Your best option if you have a type of cancer that has few, if any, approved treatments, or if your cancer has become resistant to your current approved treatment.
- A higher level of care because you will be monitored by the medical team managing your trial as well as by your regular oncologist. Extra medical attention may help identify and address side effects or other problems earlier.
- You will become a partner in cancer research, helping improve treatments for other patients and shaping the future of cancer care. The need is great for more clinical trial participants; minority patients are particularly needed.
As with any cancer treatment, those studied in clinical trials present potential risks along with benefits. Participating in a clinical trial is a decision only you can make, but you can research your options using trusted resources and get valuable input from your health care team and loved ones.
How to Find a Clinical Trial
Have your exact diagnosis, pathology report and details of previous treatments available. That will help you narrow the list of clinical trials to those that may be a good fit for you. Then, search online. Once you find one or more clinical trials you are interested in, talk with your doctor.
Generally, clinical trial search sites are hosted by the government, the National Cancer Institute, cancer advocacy groups, pharmaceutical companies, academic medical centers and major hospitals. No single list contains every clinical trial, and new trials are continually being added, so check back often.
Some organizations offer clinical trial information by phone. This is a convenient option for people who are not tech-savvy, do not have access to the tools necessary to search online or simply prefer to talk to a person.
To get started, go to Clinical Trials Resources, page 10, for some search sites and begin by putting in this basic information:
- Your diagnosis. Acute myeloid leukemia. If you have a genetic mutation that was identified, include it to further define the search.
- Your location. Trials being held closest to your location are typically listed first. If you are willing and able to travel, you may have the opportunity to expand the geographical area of the search.
Select trials that are recruiting or not yet recruiting. Because every trial has its own criteria that a participant must meet, you may decide to select “recruiting” and “not yet recruiting.”
Review the trials. You will see a list of trials that match your input, including details such as the purpose of the trial, the therapy being tested and location. Once you find one or more trials you are interested in, talk with your doctor.