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Joining a clinical trial

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It’s a common misconception that clinical trials for experimental treatments are only offered to patients when all other options have been unsuccessful. Every aspect of treatment given to you on your transplant journey has previously been shown to be safe and effective by first testing it in a clinical trial. Clinical trials are an essential part of improving our understanding of stem cell transplants and making them more successful.

Our Science Communications Manager Dr Jonathan Kay explains what happens during a clinical trial

Clinical trials rely on volunteer patients who are willing to test one or more aspects of their pre and post-transplant treatments. This could be a new drug, a new combination of existing treatments, how treatments are given or even a lifestyle change like a new diet or exercise plan.

There are three different phases to clinical trials that all need to be successful before a treatment is approved for general use. Each one involves more patients and more detailed analysis of the treatment’s effectiveness and side effects. They often have strict joining criteria to make sure they have the best possible chance of being successful. However, this unfortunately limits the number of patients who are eligible to take part.

I am pleased that I volunteered to assist with a clinical trial during my first transplant and I am grateful to those who have volunteered in the past. I am amazed at how the procedures have changed in just three years. The process seems far less invasive and it’s only due to clinical trials that this progress can be made.

Mark, who had a stem cell transplant in 2011

If you agree to join a trial, you are likely to be given either a new treatment being tested or the existing NHS approved treatment. This will be done at random and sometimes neither yourself nor your doctor will know the treatment you had until after the trial is complete. During the trial, you might need to give some extra blood samples or have extra biopsies taken. You will also have regular check-ups to ensure the treatment is safe and any side-effects are identified and dealt with quickly.

For various reasons, it’s possible that some patients who agree to join a trial will unfortunately not be selected. If this happens, you will continue to receive the most appropriate medical treatment. You can also leave a trial at any point if you decide it’s no longer suitable for you. You can then return to a treatment plan agreed by your medical team.

Larger clinical trials can deliver more reliable results because they involve more patients. This can be challenging for rare diseases or treatments like stem cell transplants that are only given to a few thousand people every year. This is why Anthony Nolan is working alongside other blood cancer charities to fund the IMPACT Clinical Trials Partnership.

Through the delivery of clinical trials, the IMPACT Clinical Trials Partnership allows hospitals across the UK to work together and share knowledge with a view to improving stem cell transplantation in the future.

IMPACT is currently recruiting stem cell transplant patients to three active clinical trials with a further two approved trials due to begin recruitment soon. More information on the currently active trials can be accessed by clinking the links below:

  • COSI is finding the best combinations of pre-transplant treatments and conditioning therapies for AML and MDS patients. 
  • ALL-RIC is looking at a new type of conditioning therapy and its effect on post-transplant relapse in AML patients.
  • AMADEUS is testing a chemotherapy drug to see if it reduces relapse rates in patients during the first year of their recovery.
  • MoTD is looking at the best ways to prevent GvHD after a stem cell transplant.

If you would like to know more about clinical trials and the possible options available at your hospital, please talk to your consultant or a member of your medical team.

The IMPACT clinical trials partnership involves 22 hospitals and transplant centres across the UK. For a list of these sites please visit the IMPACT website.

My husband wanted very much to be part of a clinical trial to help advance the care and treatment of others with leukaemia in the future. We were given all the information we needed before he started his clinical trial – the doctors answered all our questions openly and honestly. We had time to discuss the options together and to think it through before any decision was made.

Jane, whose husband had a stem cell transplant

Information published: 03/09/20
Next review due: 03/09/23

Related links

Having a stem cell transplant

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