Suggestions for using the Internet to find new cancer treatments
The Internet can be a
great source of information, especially regarding experimental treatments.
You may also find lists of ongoing clinical trials. Some patients go to
chat rooms which provide a place to talk to others facing cancer who are
being treated elsewhere and in a different fashion. However, all of this
can be confusing and even misleading. Here are some tips to keep in mind:
1 Not all cancers are the same, and even the same kind of cancer can act
differently between patients. This depends on the type of cancer (e.g. colon,
breast, etc), the stage (where it is found and if it has spread from the
original tumor) and the tumor's grade (a feature of the tumor cells; high
grade is usually more aggressive, low grade less so).
2 Not everyone tolerates the same treatment in the same way. We are all
different and our bodies therefore react differently to drugs.
3 There are some treatments which have been proven by repeated studies to
work in a certain percentage of patients. These generally become part of
standard therapy. Experimental treatments are unproven, even if scientists
hold great promise for them.
4 Although beneficial effects observed in animals are interesting leads
to follow, they usually do not predict the outcome for humans.
5 Experimental treatments should be presented with an "informed consent"
form explaining risks to you. An ethics committee should have approved the
study, and there should be no exchange of money between you and the investigator.
6 You should be able to ask about previous experiences the the new treatments:
how many people have received it, what were the benefits and what were the
7 Resist comparing your situation directly to other patients. Instead, ask
for details about tumor type, stage, grade, etc. Then bring that information
to your oncologist for help in making an appropriate comparison.
8 When you hear about a new treatment or an investigator who is recommended,
check medical databases (e.g. PUBMED www.NCBI.NLM.NIH.GOV/PUBMED) to see
if the researcher has a publication track record. Generally reputable researchers
publish their findings in widely read medical journals. This allows for
public scrutiny of their results.