BUDDY CHECK 6: The importance of clinical trials

Posted on: 3:45 pm, August 6, 2013, by , updated on: 04:26pm, August 8, 2013

RICHMOND, Va. (WTVR) - Doctors are always looking for better ways to treat and diagnose cancer, but they say they can’t do it without you.

That’s one reason why Dr. William Irvin calls patients like Cheryl Shaw heroes.

Historically few women sign up for clinical trials, but Shaw is enrolled in two research studies designed to improve treatment for the disease she’s fighting right now: breast cancer.

“I think the more data scientists have to work with the better able they’re to find answers,” said Shaw.

Oncologists like Dr. Irvin say they need more women like her to help future patients.

And that’s where a new Cedars-Sinai initiative called “Research for Her” comes in. The goal is to increase the number of women participating in clinical research so doctors can better understand and treat cancers that predominantly affect women.

“The only way we’ve made advances in any area of medicine is through clinical trials and through research,” said Dr. Irvin.  “It’s the only way to save more lives.”

The new online registry has a goal of signing up two-thousand women with or without a history of breast and gynecological cancers.

Dr. Irvin says healthy participants can help doctors understand why some women get certain types of cancer.

Shaw says she didn’t hesitate to enroll when approached by her doctors and nurses, but Dr. Irvin says many women, especially poor and minority women are still reluctant to sign up.

“This country has wronged so many pockets of this population through clinical trials and that’s a sin we’re still dealing with,” said Dr. Irvin.

Dr. Irvin says another reason why women have been underrepresented in clinical trials is because most studies were conducted through veterans’ hospitals which mostly recruited men.

He says education will help these women understand trials are much safer. And he points to the great progress in treating breast cancer from improvements in mammography to better drugs like Trastuzumab, also known as Herceptin, which is used to treat an aggressive form of the disease .

Dr. Irvin points out advances are almost always achieved through clinical research.

Shaw says she hopes more women will learn how participating in research studies can benefit them personally and the generations to come.

“I think it could help your quality of life and your outcome and the people who come after you,” sais Shaw.

Click here for more information about the “Research for Her” website.