Looking for clinical trials for breast cancer? Buckle up: There are more than 11,000 of them listed on to the official website, ClinicalTrials.gov. But you can winnow it down to the ones that fit you best.
Here’s a look at what studies are happening — and how to find one that you could join.
Trends You Should Know About
With thousands of studies going on, here’s a quick look at some themes that keep coming up. Your doctor can help you know what might apply to you.
Immunotherapy and targeted therapies. Not all breast cancers are the same. Targeted therapies are tailored to specific cancer types.
“The big thing that medicines are now aiming to do is to selectively target particular breast cancer so that the patients who are most likely to benefit from it are the ones that are being given it,” says Sara Hurvitz, MD, director of the Breast Cancer Clinical Trials Program at UCLA Health.
Immunotherapy hones in on tumors with specific genetic markers. It’s being studied in many different types of cancer, including breast cancer.
Radiation. Researchers are studying new approaches to radiation for lower-risk early stage breast cancers.
“There are trials being done now to see whether less radiation can be given in a shorter period of time to certain patients who have lower risk, early stage breast cancer,” Hurvitz says.
Skip surgery? Other trials are looking at whether some breast cancer treatments can help patients skip surgery altogether, Hurvitz says.
“Researchers are asking: If a tumor has responded beautifully to chemo or medicine and has completely disappeared based on imaging prior to surgery, can we omit doing surgery at all?” Hurvitz asks.
Stage IV treatments. Another study is focused on treatment for stage IV breast cancers that are hormone-fueled, such as estrogen receptor-positive and progesterone receptor-positive tumors. Researchers are looking at combinations of treatments.
“We currently have one trial that’s trying to figure out what the best anti-estrogen [medication] is,” says Gena Volas-Redd, MD, medical oncologist and partner with Georgia Cancer Specialists, affiliated with Northside Hospital Cancer Institute. “Our goal is to keep people with these cancers off chemo.”
Ask Your Oncologist
Tell your oncologist that you’re interested in a clinical trial. Ask them to help you find one.
“A medical oncologist is usually very in touch with research and what’s happening in the research world,” agrees Hurvitz.
“The very first thing to ask at your first appointment with your medical oncologist is, ‘Do you participate in clinical trials?’” Volas-Redd says.
If the answer is “no,” she says, it may be time to find a new oncologist.
“You want your doctor to be up on every facet of standard of care and beyond,” she says. “Clinical trials bring in testing of new drugs, new targeted therapies, and new combinations of what we already have. It really pushes the envelope so you know you’re getting the best quality care.”
Refine Your Search
You can search for specific trials using keywords to filter out trials best suited for you at ClinicalTrials.gov.
For instance, if you’re looking for trials on chemotherapy for stage I breast cancer, you would type in:
- Breast Cancer Stage I into the “Condition or disease” box.
- “Chemotherapy” in the “Other terms” box
- “United States” in the Country box
- Your state
- Your city
- How far you’re willing to travel.
Hit “Search.” Filter the results for trials that are recruiting or enrolling by invitation. That way, you’re only seeing trials you can actually try to join now.
“There won’t be a clinical trial for every person diagnosed, but every person diagnosed should inquire if there is a clinical trial ongoing for which they may be eligible,” Hurvitz says. “This is how we improve the treatment of this disease and improve the chances of cure or survival … by doing the scientific experiment to prove that that intervention works.”