Clinical trials begin in the laboratory

Clinical trials

Clinical trials begin in the laboratory

As we embark on National Pancreatic Cancer Clinical Trials Awareness Month, it is important to note that the ideas and rationale for most clinical trials start with experiments conducted on laboratory benches.

In general, there are three types of pancreatic cancer research: basic, translational, and clinical. Basic research provides us with a better understanding of biological features of the disease, such as genetic changes, protein alterations, and the interactions between cell types critical to the growth and development of pancreatic tumors. Clinical research involves testing novel therapies or diagnostic tools in studies that involve patients. And, translational research is intended to bridge the two: determining whether biological hypotheses can be converted into patient benefit, often utilizing tumor tissue specimens and/or animal models of the disease.

The Pancreatic Cancer Action Network’s research grants program invites proposals and supports scientific endeavors that fall into all three categories. Each step is critical towards our goal of doubling the survival rate of pancreatic cancer by 2020. Without a deeper biological knowledge of what differentiates normal cells from tumor cells, we cannot know how to best exploit the differences to target the malignant (cancerous) cells. The Pharmaceutical and Biotechnology industries use information from the scientific literature to help identify opportunities for advancement. New and better mouse models are constantly being developed in order to best mimic human disease in a laboratory setting. Once these hurdles are crossed and a novel drug, treatment strategy, or diagnostic is ready to be tested in patients, a stepwise and rigorous process must be followed to ensure safety and effectiveness.

The Pancreatic Cancer Action Network encourages all patients to consider clinical trials when exploring treatment options. Without clinical trials, patients will not have access to cutting edge research and we will not develop new, better treatment options for pancreatic cancer. Increasing patient participation in pancreatic cancer clinical trials is an extremely important part of the research process. This is why the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network has a proprietary, searchable database that houses information about all of the pancreatic cancer clinical trials taking place in the U.S. Trained staff can provide patients with a customized list of trials for which they may be eligible, narrowed to a geographical region of interest. Ensuring that patients understand their treatment options and enroll in clinical trials is just as important as funding research in a laboratory. For information about clinical trials or for a personalized clinical trials search, please call our Patient and Liaison Services (PALS) program toll-free at 877-272-6226 or email pals@pancan.org. PALS Associates are available M-F 7am-5pm Pacific Time.