Treating Melanoma Through Clinical Trials
Clinical trials are often viewed as the best treatment option for a late-stage (stage III or stage IV) melanoma patient, so it is important that you learn about them as a treatment option to help make an informed treatment decision.
Find Melanoma Clinical Trials
The Melanoma Research Foundation's Clinical Trial Finder is a free, confidential, personalized service that can help you understand which emerging treatments may be an option for you.
Note: This will take you to the EmergingMed website page that fully describes this free service.
What is a clinical trial?
A clinical trial is carefully designed to closely monitor people’s progress as they go through treatment with an investigational drug, product, device or method of treatment that has not been approved by the FDA. Clinical research studies help find new ways to treat, prevent and diagnose diseases. Today, all medications prescribed by a doctor must first be tested in clinical research studies. Study participants receive close medical supervision and provide valuable feedback on their experiences.
All clinical research studies in the United States are reviewed by the FDA and governing bodies called institutional review boards, whose job is to make sure participants’ rights are fully protected and that participants are not exposed to any unnecessary risks.
All treatments must go through three phases of clinical research before becoming available to the public:
- Phase I focuses primarily on safety in a small number of human volunteers
- Phase II tests the effectiveness of the new drug on a small number of human volunteers
- Phase III usually tests the new drug in comparison with the standard therapy currently being used on a larger number of human volunteers
Participating in a clinical trial is voluntary. Participants may choose to discontinue participation at any time. Before you enroll in a trial, a doctor or nurse will clearly explain the study procedures and requirements. This is called informed consent. Doctors are not allowed to enroll patients in clinical trials without first ensuring they understand what their involvement in the trial means. Once you enroll, you may end your participation at any time.
When participating in a clinical trial, participants receive study-related medications and medical monitoring at no cost. However, insurance requirements vary by study. Some may require insurance reimbursement for procedures with FDA approval for the treatment of melanoma and are used in conjunction with the investigational treatment (e.g., imaging scans or standard-of-care medications). Other studies, such as those conducted at the National Cancer Institute (NCI), provide all treatment at no cost. Most studies reimburse for travel and logistical considerations. It is important to find out the insurance requirements of the study in which you are considering participating.
Reasons to Consider a Clinical Trial
There are a number of reasons you or your doctor may want to consider participation in a clinical trial, including:
- Access to investigational treatments before they become widely available
- Opportunity to play a role in the discovery of treatments, cures and preventions for certain diseases or medical conditions
- Ability to play a more active role in your own healthcare
- Access to free physical examinations and diagnostic tests related to the study
Common Myths About Clinical Trials
- Myth: If I enter a clinical trial, I'll be treated like a guinea pig.
Fact: Clinical trials provide either the best treatment currently available (standard therapy) OR a new and possibly more effective treatment.
- Myth: I'm going to get a sugar pill while other patients are getting actual medication.
Fact: Placebos (sugar pills) are never used in place of treatment when a standard therapy is available. You will receive either the best known melanoma treatment OR a new and possibly more effective treatment. Some trials even combine the standard therapy with a new treatment.
- Myth: Clinical trials are too risky for me.
Fact: All procedures that address a life-threatening illness pose some risk. Your physician and melanoma treatment team should help you decide if a clinical trial is the best treatment option for you. In a late stage melanoma diagnosis, clinical trials are often the best treatment option.
Get More Information on the Latest Melanoma Research
Each year the Melanoma Research Foundation attends the ASCO (American Society of Clinical Oncology) Meeting where the latest research studies on melanoma treatments are presented by the top melanoma doctors in the country. A special thanks to Dr. Dorothee Herlyn and Dr. Clemens Krepler of The Wistar Institute in Philadelphia, PA for writing a scientific summary of the 2012 ASCO meeting for us. View the 2012 ASCO Meeting summary.