Clinical trials can be effective at any stage of breast cancer treatment, doctors say

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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) — Fighting breast cancer is no easy job, but doctors at the O’Neal Comprehensive Cancer Center at UAB are using clinical trials in different ways to try to fight it most effectively.

“Cancer is very smart in trying to evade your immune system,” said Dr. Eddy Yang, co-leader of the center’s experimental therapeutics program.

That’s why Yang and other doctors are no longer considering clinical trials — known to most as experimental treatments — as a last resort when treating breast cancer patients. Yang said they’re potentially useful at every stage of the treatment process.

“It’s important that we make it a standard that we think about clinical trials,” Yang said. “And the rationale there is that it covers the whole gamut of the breast cancer journey.”

And putting the right patient in the right trial can save the patient’s life.

“It’s really rewarding to just see the tumor melt away as a result of the trial,” Yang said.

Clinical trials also provide valuable research for the doctors, who then can share their findings with other doctors and save lives around the world.

“We can’t have success without collaborating with everybody, and not just the physicians, but also the community and the patients,” Yang said.

That’s part of the reason they encourage patients to consider them, especially patients in certain populations.

“Over the last 10 years, we’ve noticed that the incidents of breast cancer among white women and black women are roughly the same,” said Dr. Erica Stringer-Reasor, an assistant professor in the O’Neal Comprehensive Cancer Center at UAB. “But if you’re black, you’re 40% more likely to die of your disease.”

But according to Stringer-Reasor, only about 5% of minority patients participate in clinical trials, and she would like to see that number grow.

“We know that there are some differences in genetics and how the tumors work among ethnicities,” she said. “And it’s important to understand the biology of the disease so that we can find more treatments to investigate a cure.”

Stringer-Reasor said clinical trials, for patients willing to try them, can make a difference in their health, and the health patients around the world.


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