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Lung Cancer Clinical Trials | Addressing Common Patient Concerns

Lung Cancer Clinical Trials | Addressing Common Patient Concerns from Patient Empowerment Network on Vimeo.

Considering a lung cancer clinical trial can feel overwhelming and brings up a number of questions. Dr. Grace Dy reviews common concerns from patients, and explains how and when placebo may be used in trials.

Dr. Grace Dy is Chief of Thoracic Oncology and Professor of Oncology in the Department of Medicine at Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center in Buffalo, New York. Learn more about Dr. Grace Dy.

See More From Lung Cancer Clinical Trials 201

Related Resources:

What Procedures Are in Place to Protect Lung Cancer Clinical Trial Participants

Questions to Ask Before Participating in a Lung Cancer Clinical Trial

Where Do Clinical Trials Fit Into a Lung Cancer Treatment Plan?


Katherine Banwell:

What are some common concerns you hear from patients when discussing lung cancer clinical trial options?  

Dr. Grace Dy:

When I discuss clinical trials, the first question generally patients ask is: well, how effective is the drug, right? And the second question will be: well, what are the side effects? And those are very valid questions, but we may not always have an answer to it, especially if they’re in early phase. I do a lot of early phase clinical trials, meaning sometimes we don’t even know the proper dose of the drug to use, for example.  

And the intent of the trial, for example, in Phase I, generally, is to find out what is a proper dose to use that is safe and effective before we can do a test in Phase II setting using the recommended dose to test it out more rigorously how well it works. And if it passes Phase II, then we go to Phase III, which then generally is comparing it with the standard to see whether it will be better or at least equivalent or non-inferior. 

And you may ask, “Well, why even do a non-inferior?” Because, well, some drugs, it may not prolong your life more than current therapies, but if it has better side effect profile, right? So, there are actually drugs that are approved through non-inferiority trials. But those are the common concerns, and I think another common concern that I hear when I talk about trials, patients are concerned about receiving placebo. 

Katherine Banwell:

And what do you tell patients? 

Dr. Grace Dy:

Well, it depends on the design of the trial and the question that is being answered. So, in fact, for example, some situations in the standard of care is not to do anything. The best way to remove bias is to administer a placebo because the standard care would be not to do anything. And those, generally, are Phase III, you know. An early phase, Phase I, Phase II generally there are no placebo involved. I mean, there are some randomized Phase II trials that there are placebo involved and I explain to the patient why placebo may be involved and it’s usually on top of a standard of care. So, there could be a standard of care therapy but you add something else. So, you want to compare it with a new drug plus the standard of care. So, you might add placebo so that the doctors will not be bias when they measured their scans, for example. They say oh, this patient is getting this experimental drug. So, they’re excited. They might oh, you know, make it look better than what it actually is.  

Katherine Banwell:

Now, as a researcher yourself, do you always know that a placebo is part of the clinical trial testing?  

Dr. Grace Dy:

Yes, it will be in the design. So, it will say there is a placebo control. So, the title, or the design, generally will tell you this is a randomized, double-blind placebo control. Usually if there is a blinded there might be some placebo involved because then you don’t know what people are getting.