Patients who take part in studies may be among the first to receive treatments that have shown promise in research. In many studies, some of the patients receive the new treatment, while others receive standard treatment so that doctors can compare different treatments. Patients who take part in a trial make an important contribution to medical science. Although these patients take certain risks, they may have the first chance to benefit from improved treatment methods.
Doctors are studying new treatments for all types of leukemia. They are working on new drugs, new drug combinations, and new schedules of chemotherapy. They also are studying ways to improve bone marrow transplantation.
Many clinical trials involve various forms of biological therapy. Interleukins and colony-stimulating factors are forms of biological therapy being studied to treat leukemia. Doctors also are studying ways to use monoclonal antibodies in the treatment of leukemia. Often biological therapy is combined with chemotherapy or bone marrow transplantation.
Patients with leukemia (or their families) should talk with the doctor if they are interested in taking part in a clinical trial. They may want to read Taking Part in Clinical Trials: What Cancer Patients Need To Know, which explains some of the possible benefits and risks of treatment studies.
One way to learn about clinical trials is through PDQ, a computerized resource developed by the National Cancer Institute. PDQ contains information about cancer treatment and about clinical trials in progress throughout the country. The Cancer Information Service can provide PDQ information to doctors, patients, and the public.