Demystifying Clinical Trials

Kelli Meoli knows that clinical trials save lives and help enable advances in breast cancer prevention and treatment. That’s why, after she was diagnosed with stage 2B cancer at age 33, she participated in a clinical trial. And it’s why she volunteered to be one of the first six breast cancer survivors to be trained as a clinical trial peer mentor for DBCC.

“It’s important for women to know about the availability of clinical trials and to know what questions to ask their doctor,” Meoli says. “There are some common misconceptions about clinical trials, such as that you are a guinea pig and that you might not get the treatment you need. In reality, you will get at least the standard of care, but possibly more, and everyone in a clinical trial is followed more closely.”

Dr. Nicholas Petrelli, director of Christiana Care’s Helen F. Graham Cancer Center, adds, “We know that patients get better care when they are on clinical trials. It’s a no-brainer. The problem is that only about 4 percent of cancer patients across the United States go on clinical trials.” In contrast, more than 20 percent of patients at Graham Cancer Center go on clinical trials, he adds.

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Training for DBCC staff and volunteers who are clinical trial peer mentors was developed in collaboration with Kandie Dempsey, director of cancer research at the Graham Cancer Center. She teaches the sessions along with DBCC Board Member Nanci Mayer-Mihalski. DBCC has peer mentors in all three counties who focus on the clinical trials offered to women in local cancer centers.

“We need to collaborate with organizations like DBCC to help educate the public about the importance of clinical trials,” Petrelli says. “Hospitals alone cannot do it.”

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