In my last post, I described the side effects of taxane-based chemotherapy (aka taxol, paclitaxel, taxotere, or abraxane). We know that chemo-induced peripheral neuropathy (CIPN) is a large concern while undergoing these treatments. For me, as a physical therapist who uses my hands to guide my treatment, I jumped at the chance to participate in a clinical trial related to better understanding who is most likely to develop CIPN during chemo.
The study I’ll participate in is run by the University of Hawaii John A. Burns School of Medicine. It entails having several measures taken prior to taxane-based treatment (baseline), at 4-week intervals during treatment, and then several measures taken at various intervals up to 3 years post-treatment. The goal is to look at trends in which patients develop CIPN, how long CIPN lasts if developed, and if certain supplements or adjunct treatments (like acupuncture) help to prevent CIPN. In this way, doctors will be able to help patients make informed decisions to prevent this nasty side effect in the future.
Measurements taken include monofilament testing to measure protective sensation at various points on the feet, tuning fork assessment at bony points on the hands and forearm to measure vibratory sensation, a basic balance test call the Timed Up and Go which measures gait speed and safety, and several questionnaires which ask about loss of sensation, pain, sleep quality, physical activity, and general quality of life.
Even before I had officially met with my oncologist, I was hoping there would be a clinical trial that I could participate in. I feel that it’s a great way to pay it forward to others who will undergo similar treatments in the future. If they can have one less thing to worry about while navigating a super difficult time in life, then why not?
Clinical trials are very important, especially in the case of triple negative breast cancer. If enough evidence for specific treatments can be gathered, it could change the course of treatment for other patients in the future. As not much is actually known about TNBC since the tumors lack hormone or HER2 protein receptors, the exact same chemo regimen has been used to treat it for years! Thank goodness chemo is super effective! Here’s hoping new advances will be made to make treatment a little easier on everyone in the future.
If you’ve been diagnosed with cancer and you’re interested in participating in a clinical trial, ask your doctor if you qualify for any in your area. You can also go to clinicaltrials.gov and look up studies for your specific diagnosis and take ones that interest you with you to your next appointment to see if you do qualify.
There are many types of studies including observational studies (like the one I’m participating in) as well as randomized-controlled trials that may be testing new treatment options or options that make current treatments more effective. Remember, participation in a clinical trial is completely optional and if you start out with one, you can always opt out at any time. You don’t have to feel like a guinea pig if you don’t want to!
Feel free to reach out with any questions about joining or participating in a clinical trial!