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by Terri Pustilnik, M.D.
New discoveries from research impact our world every day. Just look around your desk or home. How many cell phones do you have that weigh a few pounds and require an antenna? When was the last time you watched a movie on your Betamax player? Those have been made obsolete because of research-driven technological advancements. Preventing, diagnosing, and treating cancer is no different.
Doctors and scientists are constantly developing new hope for patients through more effective drugs with fewer side effects, innovations in radiation technology, new surgical techniques, and other less invasive treatment options. Behind each breakthrough is a lengthy process involving years of painstaking research. For every success, there are multiple setbacks.
An integral part of this process is clinical trials to test new therapies and technologies or new ways to make existing treatments better. Patients who participate in these trials gain access to potentially lifesaving treatments long before they are widely available, while paving the way for others to benefit from new treatment discoveries.
In the past, clinical trials were almost exclusively the province of large academic medical centers. Accessing a trial required patients to uproot their lives, sometimes leave their support networks and relocate, often for months at a time. Thankfully, that is no longer the case. As cancer care has evolved from a ‘hospitals only’ experience to community-based and mostly outpatient treatment, so too has the opportunity to participate in clinical trials.
Texas Oncology is a leader in community-based oncology research. We offer patients access to an extensive network of clinical trials, including chemotherapy and radiation therapy. Participation in any trial is completely voluntary, and patients may opt out at any point.
Bringing clinical trials and research studies to patients where they live has many benefits. Studies show patients who travel shorter distances to receive treatment are more likely to complete a treatment regimen. Taking away the stress, disruption, and costs of travel make it easier for those who participate in clinical trials and their loved ones to play an active role in their healthcare.
Research also benefits future patients. Every treatment modality we currently use has gone through a similar process, made possible by yesterday’s trials and research. It is exciting to think that work being done today can positively impact generations to come.
Cancer doesn’t discriminate. It can affect anyone in any city, or any small Texas town, and not just those living near a big, academic hospital. Through US Oncology Research programs and affiliations with National Cancer Institute-funded studies, Texas Oncology physicians and patients have played a role in more than 50 FDA-approved cancer-fighting drugs, nearly one-third of all cancer therapies approved by the FDA to date, with more on the horizon. Hundreds of patients participate in hundreds of trials across Texas each year. As physicians, we are honored to play a part in continuing to improve cancer care for our patients today as well as the patients of tomorrow.
Making clinical trials available across our practice is another key component of our commitment to delivering comprehensive, high quality cancer treatment to the communities we serve. It gives our patients the best weapons to fight their cancer: leading-edge therapies, familiar surroundings, and with vital support networks nearby. To learn more, visit www.TexasOncology.com/Clinical-Trials.
Dr. Terri Pustilnik is a gynecologic oncologist with Texas Oncology’s Deke Slaton Cancer Center in Webster, Houston Memorial City, Houston Medical Center, and Sugar Land locations.