Clinical Trials: Why they Merit a Donation.

                   “If a man be endowed with a generous mind, this is the best kind of nobility.”    —  Plato

INTRODUCTION:

Clinical cancer trials provide life-saving research.   For this research to reach its potential, it needs to be supported by philanthropic minded individuals.  Coined in Ancient Greece, “philanthropy” is best defined as private giving for the public good.  Philanthropy does not mean a large bequest, but the donation of an amount that is within one’s means.  Although there are very legitimate causes to which to donate, I can think of no donation more important than a donation to cancer research in general and, if you reside in or have ties with Wisconsin, to the Medical College of Wisconsin.  I here try to explain why.

A couple weeks ago, we discussed clinical trials in general.  That understanding is critical to our discussion of today – why clinical trials truly merit a donation.  At the outset, The Triumph Fund knows that there are competing demands for donations and recognizes that many good causes seek your financial assistance.  It can be difficult to make decisions as to where it is best to donate your hard earned dollars.

There are many reasons I, personally and on behalf of The Triumph Fund, can offer as to why a donation to cancer clinical trials at the Medical College of Wisconsin is merited.  As I think of it, I view those reasons as falling into two general categories:  i) the benefits it offers to current and future cancer patients here and throughout the world; and ii)  the economic and community development fostered by clinical trials.  The second category is important and will be of general assistance to the Milwaukee area.   The first is critical.  It is for that reason that I will today offer my thoughts on the benefits that cancer clinical trials – and hence a charitable donation to such trials – offer to existing and future cancer patients.  At a date in the near future, we will talk about the economic development offered by cancer clinical trials.

MY SUGGESTED REASONS FOR  DONATING TO CLINICAL TRIALS:

So, although I am not a doctor, here is my thinking on why a donation to cancer clinical trials is a donation well made and one that can make you feel good about yourself:

A)  A Quick Summary: 

Although set forth in more detail below, the following summarizes my feelings on this topic.  A donation to clinical trials is a donation that will benefit others and may benefit you and your loved ones in multiple ways.  A donation that helps promote clinical trials makes promising new cancer treatments available to existing patients, gives hope to patients who are searching for that ray of sunshine in their treatment, expedites FDA approval of treatments found to be safe and effective, and increases the chances of finding life-saving treatments.   A donation to the Clinical Trials Office at the Medical College of Wisconsin will offer direct assistance to cancer patients in Milwaukee and Wisconsin, patients who are not able to take advantage of trials offered elsewhere.

B)  My Rationale Explained:


1)  The Question of Federal Funding. 
I think of whether cancer research (or research for other life threatening medical conditions) can depend on federal funding to the extent it has in the past.  As the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR) explains, the National Cancer Institute (NCI) is one of 27 institutes and centers that makeup the U. S. National Institutes of Health (NIH), one of the world’s preeminent supporters of biomedical research.  (AACR Report – NCI).  NCI is the country’s main agency for cancer research and is supported by Congress.  The funds it receives go to subsidize research at NCI’s Maryland headquarters and in labs and medical centers across the U.S.  AACR notes in its website that federal appropriations for NIH and NCI essentially “remained flat” since 2003, when there was a significant increase in the NIH budget.   (AACR Report – Funding).  Taking into account the rate of biomedical inflation, NIH ‘s budget effectively has declined 20%, thus limiting its ability to perform and fund cancer research.  (AACR Report – Funding).

2)  The Widespread Nature of the Disease Shows It Can Touch Any of Us. 
I think of how cancer can touch each of us.  If you or your family has not been the subject of this horrible disease, there is more than a remote chance that you or a member of your family will be or that a close friend or close friends will be.  The NCI had estimated that in 2012 1,638,910 men and women (848,170 men and 790,740 women) would be diagnosed with cancer and that and 577,190 men and women will die of the disease.  (NCI Estimates on Cancer Prevalence).   Based on rates from 2007-2009, 41.24% of men and women born today will be diagnosed with cancer at some point during their lifetime.  (NCI Estimates on Cancer Prevalence).   This disease is prevalent —  too prevalent.  Research needs to be funded to reduce the reach of cancer’s grasp.

3)  The Increased Survival Rates Means New Treatments Work. 
I think of how the development of new drugs and procedures has increased the rate of cancer survivorshipIn other words, despite the thoughtless and unimaginative number of times a television show explains a person’s death as being attributable to cancer, for many surviving cancer is not some dream.  (As an aside, I find it distressing that an industry built on creativity so often resorts to the trite by explaining a character’s death as being the result of cancer. As the American Cancer Society notes in its website, sixty years ago, one out of three individuals diagnosed with cancer survived at least five years.   (ACS Survival Statistics).  Today, thanks to the tireless work of doctors, scientists, researchers, and cancer-fighting organizations, two out of three will survive.  (ACS Survival Statistics).  There are now more than 13.7 million cancer survivors in the United States and that number is expected to grow to nearly 18 million by 2022.  (M.D. Anderson Statistics).  These statistics show that money donated to cancer research reaps rewards – life-saving rewards.  Indeed, one recent article discussing the strides in cancer treatments mentioned how genetically targeted drugs are creating an increased hope for cures and increased survivorship.  (“More” Article on “Strides Forward” in Cancer Research).

4)  The Hope and Treatment Provided to Existing Patients. 
I think of the hope and potentially significant benefits that clinical trials offer to existing cancer patients.  A cancer patient going through a clinical trial may have run out of options.  He or she wants hope more than anything.  So does his or her family.  The new drugs and drug combinations and the new devices being tested and evaluated in clinical trials may offer hope, and much more.  They may result in the shrinking of tumors, thus possibly making other treatments, such as surgery to resect the remaining tumor or tumors, possible.  Although such benefits are not certain, if realized they are of incredible significance to one fighting this disease.   As explained in a recent article in Reuters, they may even result in the patient’s tumors being killed, leaving no evidence of disease.   (Reuters Article on Cancer Drugs “Proving Worth”).   Clinical trials not only offer that desired hope, they may well offer a longer life and even a cure.

5) 
Expedited Treatments for Tomorrow’s Patients.  I think of the recognizable benefits that will be offered in the future to those suffering from this disease.  As I think about this, I keep recalling that clinical trials present the standard of care for patients of tomorrow.  (Reuters Article on Tomorrow’s Standard of Care).

In the previous post on clinical trials, we discussed how the evaluation of drugs in a trial may expedite the FDAs approval of a new drug or the use of an existing drug with another existing drug.  we also discussed how an existing drug may be evaluated to see if it is effective in fighting a  different cancer.  A blog on MD Anderson Cancer Center’s website, by Cancerwise Blogger, states: “The timeline for moving new drugs through clinical trials to regulatory approval can be reduced by 50%.”  (M.D. Anderson Blog).   A study by two Yale researchers, as reported by Cancer Clinical Trials, concluded that the average time from clinical trial to FDA approval for a new drug is 322 days.   (Cancer Clinical Trials – Yale Study).   Absent the results of clinical trials which can show that a new drug is safe and effective, and priority review by the FDA, the new drug approval process can take years.  (FDA – Drug Approval Process).

There is no question that clinical trials speed up drug development and possible approval of new drugs or new uses for existing drugs, thus making new and promising treatments available more quickly to cancer patients.  Such approvals, in turn, possibly allow for a cure or at least a material increase in the amount of time the patient may otherwise be expected to live.  I can attest personally to the value of clinical trials in terms of expediting the FDAs approval of new drugs.  As I write this, I am finishing a chemotherapy regimen in which the cocktail of drugs I am receiving includes a chemotherapy agent that received expedited approval by the FDA in the late 1990s and a “biological” agent that received accelerated approved by the FDA in late 2006.  These cancer-fighting warriors have been very successful in fighting and even killing tumors in me.  I am thankful for the clinical trials that garnered data to permit the expedited approvals of these agents.

6)  Availability to Cancer Patients in Wisconsin.  I think of the the availability of clinical trials to those in the Milwaukee area and in Wisconsin who are otherwise unable, financially or otherwise, to afford traveling to some other location to participate in a clinical trial.  The Triumph Fund’s aim is to increase the number of clinical trials performed at the Medical College of Wisconsin and to otherwise promote its innovative and world-class cancer research.  One problem with clinical trials, as observed by many, including the Intercultural Cancer Council,  is that certain demographics, such as low income, the elderly, certain ethnic or racial minorities, and those who live in rural areas have a low participation in such trials.   (Intercultural Cancer Council Report re Low Participation by Certain Populations).   Those populations in Wisconsin can be reached much more easily with increased clinical trials at the Medical College of Wisconsin.

7)  Prevention.  Finally, I think of a new born baby, sleeping in her crib, oblivious to a world filled tormented by cancer.  Recognizing that screening is one of the methods that can be subject to clinical trials, as discussed in our prior post on trials, I imagine an increased number of effective mechanisms that screen for and will hence hopefully prevent cancer, such as a recent clinical trial on screening for colon cancer.  (Government Report re Clinical Trial for Colon Cancer Screening).    Even with improved treatments, the best result is to screen for cancer so as to prevent it or to detect it in its earliest stages, at which stage it is more easily treatable.  That young baby, as she ages and realizes the wonders of life, can then spend even more restful nights.

Please, DONATE, please.  It is not overstating it to say: It Is A Matter Of Life And Death.  

“If you want happiness for an hour, take a nap. If you want happiness for a day, go fishing. If you want happiness for a year, inherit a fortune. If you want happiness for a lifetime, help somebody.”         —   Chinese Proverb

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