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Health and Medicine

Case researchers try to train nurses to get more cancer patients into clinical trials
Case Western Reserve University says the program could help get more life-saving drugs approved

Doctor Neal Meropol is testing ways to attract more patients to clinical trials.
Courtesy of Case Western Reserve University
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Cancer researchers say there are not enough patients taking part in clinical trials. Case Western Reserve University says that is causing delays in getting life-saving treatments to market, and it has a plan to change that. For Ohio Public Radio, WCPN’s Joanna Richards reports.

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Clinical trials are how new medical treatments are tested and proven. But few cancer patients take part in them. The problem has been around for years, and it is bad enough that a significant number of studies are never completed because of a lack of participants.

That is according to Neal Meropol, the head of hematology and oncology at Case. He says patients do not participate for a variety of reasons. Many are unaware of the opportunity. Some have misconceptions. Others have specific concerns.

"Fear of being a guinea pig or of getting a placebo instead of a real therapy…" Meropol says.

But, Meropol says, clinical trials represent the latest thinking in treatment, and can offer hope when other strategies are not working. 

So, to get more patients in the pipeline, Case is running a nationwide program, funded by the National Cancer Institute, to see whether nurses can help solve the problem.

The five-year study will provide different types of education about clinical trials to oncology nurses across the country, and look at what works best to improve their knowledge, attitudes and ability to discuss the option with patients.

"And ultimately improve how patients feel about clinical trials, and hopefully improve their likelihood of deciding to take part in a clinical trial," Meropol says.

That, Meropol says, will help improve treatment for patients in the future.

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