Some patients with skin cancer may be interested in participating in a clinical trial of a new form of therapy.
This is something to think about right after your cancer is diagnosed. Many clinical trials will only accept patients who have not yet received any treatment for their disease. These clinical trials are testing new "first-line" treatments for cancer. If you have just been diagnosed with cancer, and you are interested in exploring different treatment possibilities, including clinical trials, talk to your doctor right away. In some instances, you may need to make a decision about treatment quickly.
There are other clinical trials that include patients who have already been treated for cancer. Some of these trials are testing follow-up treatments designed to help prevent cancer from recurring. Others are trials of "second-line" treatments for patients whose first-line treatment did not work or trials of treatments for cancer that has metastasized (spread to distant parts of the body).
A good place to start looking for clinical trials is the National Cancer Institute Web page. You can search on the Web site for clinical trials that relate to your particular form of cancer. For example, on one recent occasion, there were 248 clinical trials relating to melanoma listed on the site. No individual melanoma patient would be eligible for all of these trials, though. Some were for patients with newly diagnosed melanoma, others for patients with recurrent melanoma, and still others for patients with melanoma that had metastasized. Some were only for patients with a particular stage of melanoma or for those who had already had particular types of treatment. And of course, different trials were taking place in different parts of the country. But many melanoma patients who searched through this site would be able to find a trial in which they could participate if they wanted to.
Another way to find out about clinical trials is to ask your doctor. Doctors are often familiar with clinical trials that pertain to the diseases they treat, especially those taking place in their local area.