Clinical trials are voluntary studies that investigate new ways to prevent, diagnose and treat medical conditions. Patients who participate in these studies gain access to the most recent approaches in therapeutic care, developed by the nation's foremost healthcare specialists.
Many of today's standard treatments of care began as clinical trials. Clinical trials generally have three phases (I, II and III) with each subsequent phase using information from earlier phases.
There are many safeguards in place to protect patients who choose to participate in clinical trials. One of the most important of these is the Institutional Review Board (IRB), a group that reviews studies before they begin to ensure that potential benefits outweigh risks. This group also monitors data during the studies. The National Cancer Institute (NCI) provides another safeguard by reviewing all studies funded by the federal government. Participants are also required to sign Informed Consent Forms.
There are two IRBs at Virtua:
The oncology IRB at Virtua is made up of medical oncologists, a radiation oncologist, an oncology nurse, a representative from the American Cancer Society, a hospital administrator, a member of the clergy and at least one lay member. The mission of the oncology IRB is to choose cancer clinical research trials that will result in improved outcomes with the least amount of adverse events.
General medicine IRB
The general medical IRB at Virtua focuses on general medicine and reviews clinical trials for treatments that range from new medications for myocardial infarction (heart attack) to pain management. The general medicine IRB consists of doctors, nurses, scientists and knowledgeable lay people who review studies before they begin to ensure that potential benefits outweigh risks. This group also monitors data during the studies to ensure the treatment's effectiveness.
Access to local and national oncology clinical trials
Virtua Fox Chase Cancer Program patients have access to a broad range of national clinical trials as well as some of those conducted exclusively for Fox Chase patients. Many of these trials are among the hundreds that are currently sponsored by the NCI. There are clinical trials for almost every type of cancer. Treatment trials may involve chemotherapy, radiation therapy, surgery, new treatments, or any combination.
Virtua’s research staff works closely with physician clinical investigators to ensure new clinical trials with the latest treatment options are available for Virtua patients. Virtua also participates in cancer prevention clinical trials which show great promise in the identification of cancer risks through epidemiologic and experimental research with lifestyle and medical approaches. A Research Review Committee comprised of Virtua Fox Chase Cancer Program principle investigators meets bi-monthly to discuss and recommend new trials to the Institutional Review Board (IRB) for approval.
In 2009, more than 125 oncology patients enrolled in clinical trials available through the Virtua Fox Chase Cancer Program.
For more information, call 1-888-VIRTUA-3 (1-888-847-8823).