Susan G. Komen, an organization that fights breast cancer by funding research, screening, education, treatment, and psychosocial support programs, has launched a new toll-free Breast Cancer Clinical Trial Information Helpline (1-877-465-6636).
The goal is to help breast cancer patients and their families and friends increase their understanding of clinical trials, give them the information and resources to make an informed decision about clinical trial participation, and facilitate enrollment in programs of potential benefit.
“Clinical trials are critical to the development of new cancer therapies and cancer medicines, and yet very few breast cancer patients participate, either because they’re unaware of trials, are overwhelmed by the information they’re receiving, or are not sure how to raise the subject with their doctors,” Susan Brown, director of education and patient support at Susan G. Komen, said in a press release. “Our new Clinical Trial Helpline is here to help patients and loved ones get the answers they need, and potentially advance breast cancer research.”
Komen has supported 480 clinical trials since opening its doors in 1982. The largest non-profit funder of breast cancer research, after the U.S. Government, has supported research into prevention, new drugs, treatment approaches, and interventions to improve quality of life or reduce side effects.
Trials exist worldwide to evaluate the safety and effectiveness of new treatments, diagnostic methods, and screening tests. However, participation has never been so low – only 5 percent of adults in the U.S. participate in clinical trials, although 20 percent of cancer patients could be eligible, according to Komen. Even more concerning is the fact that fewer than 10 percent of trial participants are members of racial or ethnic minorities, often facing higher death rates than Caucasians.
“Language, including low literacy in English, can be a deterrent to investigators in approaching patients to offer information and enrollment in clinical trials. This Helpline will offer staff and materials in both English and Spanish, written for a lay audience, to help patients identify open trials that they may be eligible for, and overcome these barriers,” said Komen grantee Karen Schmitt, who is the director of the Cancer Services Program at New York Presbyterian Hospital.
While the helpline may not help everyone who calls qualify for a clinical trial, it will educate and empower patients to have more informed conversations with their physicians, potentially removing barriers that are affecting participation, Brown said.
“Komen has set a bold goal to reduce current U.S. breast cancer deaths by half by 2026, and research is essential to achieving that goal. We invite anyone with a question about clinical trials to call our new Helpline, and let us help you get the information you need to have the discussion with your healthcare provider,” said Ellen Willmott, interim president and chief executive officer of Susan G. Komen. “You may not only help yourself, but may also make a difference in the mission to end breast cancer, forever.”