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Clinical Trials


Dr. Kim Mulvihill, Monday, October 9, 2000

San Francisco, CA, USA -- Clinical trials are an important part of advancing knowledge and saving lives. But trying to get people to take part in them is far from easy. Healthbeat team doctor Kim Mulvihill reports.

Clinical trials help us put new ideas and new treatments to the test, seeing if they really work. But many people are reluctant to take part in these trials, and the level of participation is particularly low among minority groups.

"I always said I wanted to have a doctor that was on the very cutting edge of technology and what was going on," says Karen Holly who was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 34. "Because I felt I was so young, I didn't want to sit back and wait for things to happen, I wanted to be ahead of what was going on, and what ever was being offered I wanted to know about it."

She had surgery and chemotherapy, but four years later her cancer returned and her treatment options were limited. So she decided to take part in a clinical trial for a new kind of treatment -- something her family found surprising.

"I was scared, my parents were really scared. They couldn't understand because in my community we really didn't talk about clinical trials. It wasn't anything that was really offered," says Holly.

There are many obstacles to joining a clinical study: age, language, cultural differences, fear of the unknown, and the fact that many people don't know they have the option. But clinical trials are important, and not just for the patient. They help us find out what works, what doesn't and for whom.

Today there are clinical trials looking at treatments, but also looking at prevention. One big problem is getting the word out.

"If people had the information available, and people really understood what it meant, and not looked at it so much as a guinea pig situation but rather as making progress in medicine, that could possibly be the cure, be the answer, be the fix," says Holly.

Today one of the best ways of spreading the word is through the Internet. Patients, family and friends are able to log on to learn about clinical trial options. And there are big benefits for researchers who are now able to find study participants faster than in the past.

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