How to Participate in T Cell Cancer Therapy Trials
T Cell cancer therapy is a new treatment that involves the use of a patient's own immune cells to fight cancer. There are a few types of T Cell cancer therapy such as adoptive cell therapy (ACT), tumor infiltrating lymphocytes (TIL), and T cell therapy with chimeric antigen receptors (CARs).T Cell therapy has been used very effectively in clinical trials with various blood cancers such as acute lymphoblastic leukemia. Given the serious risks involved in T Cell therapy, you should only participate in clinical trials if you have exhausted all other treatment options.
Investigating Clinical Trials
Find out if there are any clinical trials in your region.You should determine whether there are any T Cell cancer therapy trials in your country or region, since there are only a few major studies underway. Given the limited number of trials currently underway for this therapy and limited location sites (such as Britain and the United States), it could be difficult to secure participation in one of these trials.
Ask a cancer organization about trials.You should contact cancer specialists such as researchers, university medical departments or cancer support groups that focus on your specific type of cancer. Some of the support groups for specific types of cancer have information lines that will give you advice about clinical trials over the phone.
- For instance, the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society has an informational telephone line that offers advice for cancer patients. Call: 800-955-4572.
- You can search for National Cancer Institute supported clinical trials via their website at:
- If there is a major university in your region, you could contact the medical department and inquire about any clinical trials underway at that institution.
Ask the medical researchers about the treatment.If you are getting chimeric antigen receptor T-Cell therapy, the doctors will take blood from your body in order to extract T cells, which are sent to a laboratory. Your T-cells will then be genetically engineered to create more chimeric antigen receptors (CARs), which will theoretically allow your body’s T cells to target tumor cells. After the CAR T-cells are multiplied in the lab, they will be reinserted into your body at the medical facility. Given the complexity of this treatment, you should ask your doctor about the details:
- “How long will I be at the hospital?”
- “How much blood will be taken?”
- “How long will I have to wait while my T-cells are at the lab?”
- "How will it feel when the T-cells are reinserted back into my body?"
Learn about the possible side effects.You should be aware that T Cell cancer therapy trials can involve very serious side effects, which often take numerous medical experts to keep under control.Although research is underway to reduce the severity of side effects, you should know that this treatment option is only worthwhile if you have exhausted other options. If you choose it, you should know about some of the side effects. For instance, side effects of CAR T-Cell therapy include:
- Cytokine release syndrome, which can cause high fevers, low blood pressure, poor lung function and other serious symptoms.
- B-cell aplasia, which destroys normal B cells in your blood.
- Tumor Lysis syndrome, which is a life-threatening complication. This is a dangerous side effect but can be effectively managed.
Working with Your Doctor
Find out whether you have exhausted standard treatment options.Surgery, chemotherapy and radiation therapy remain central to the treatment of many cancers. Although research on T Cell cancer therapy is highly promising, this form of therapy has only recently undergone testing in humans and has not yet received federal approval in the U.S. So, you should make sure you have explored all of the standard treatment options for your type of cancer. Typically, doctors will only let you participate in these trials if all other options have been pursued with no success. Ask your doctor:
- "Have we explored all available treatment options for my cancer?”
- “Do you think we’re at the point where I need to look at clinical trials?”
Ask your doctor about T Cell Cancer Trials.Your doctor may have colleagues who are conducting T Cell cancer therapy, so you should ask them who they know and how you could get involved. Try asking:
- “Who do you know who is involved in T Cell cancer research?”
- “Do you think you could help me enroll in a T Cell cancer therapy trial?”
- “What are the risks of participating in one of these trials?”
Consider the benefits of participating in a T Cell cancer therapy trial.On a notepad or device, write down all of the possible benefits you can see from participating in the trial. Early research results are very promising on the effectiveness of T Cell cancer therapy.One of the benefits of participating in a trial is that you would be one of the first to benefit from a new and more effective cancer treatment. You may also receive the benefit of extra follow up treatment following the trial. In addition, you would be helping society find a cure for cancer.
Write down all of the risks.The downsides of participating in a clinical trial include the fact that the new treatment, T Cell therapy, may not be as good as older cancer treatments. In addition, even if the new treatment is better for most people, it may not be better for your body specifically. Finally, you may experience many specific side effects of T Cell cancer therapy such as cytokine release syndrome and B cell aplasia. It will also be pretty time intensive and emotionally exhausting.
Choose whether to participate in a trial.You should weigh the benefits and risks of participating in T Cell cancer therapy trials, and then make an informed decision.
Go through the informed consent process.If you weigh the benefits and risks and still want to participate in the T Cell cancer therapy trial, you will need to go through informed consent. Your doctor will tell you about all of the specific benefits and risks of the trial. You should ask any questions you have about the trial. Be curious and ask lots of questions about the benefits, risks, side effects and other details of participating in the trial.
Secure caregiver assistance for the duration of the trial.Find a professional caregiver to help you for the duration of the clinical trial. Although this is not always required by trials, it is a good precaution because of the intensity of these trials.
Video: T-cell therapy for cancer treatment: How it works
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