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43. Should I Try Something Experimental?

Cancer researchers are conducting thousands of clinical trials to test new drugs and drug combinations. Patients will benefit from doing some of their own research to find a trial that might be right for them. There also are anti-cancer drugs that have recently been approved by the FDA -- so they are technically "experimental" -- but science still wants to know more about their long-term effects.

  • A) What are my chances of benefiting from a clinical trial?
  • B) What about some of the latest "cell-targeted" drugs?
  • C) What is "off- label" use of drugs?
    Practical Tips...
  • In Phase 1 trials about 5% to 20% of the participants show some positive response to the drugs being tested but these are the first human trials with the drug. In more advanced trials (like Phase 2 and Phase 3) the positive response rate can be much higher. But remember: none of these drugs have been FDA approved.
  • Most of these drugs have only been FDA-approved in the last few years. But some of them -- like Avastin, Herceptin and Rituxan -- each of annual sales of over $1 billion. Which suggests that they are popular and probably working. Combining one of them with chemo also is a growing trend.
  • This practice is controversial. It entails your doctor prescribing drugs (or a combination of drugs) that sometimes have a cancer-killing impact, but are not typically prescribed for that purpose.