Producing faster results than other studies, placebo-controlled trials can be a good choice for those for whom traditional mesothelioma treatments have failed.

Decoding Clinical Trial Wording

Mesothelioma patients who are considering participating in clinical trials often run into the phrase “randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study.” Such a long description can make the meaning of a particular clinical trial and its general purpose seem confusing. Knowing what the description really means can help make the decision to participate or not easier.

  • randomization


    This ensures there is no bias in the scientific results, but also ensures that everyone participating gets an equal chance of receiving the experimental treatment.

  • double-blind


    This serves as extra insurance that the scientific results aren’t biased and that participants have equal opportunity to get treatment. There is no chance of doctors choosing a patient out of personal bias.

  • placebo

    Placebo-controlled (Control Group)

    The randomized group of participants who receive the placebo are known as the control group. Using a control ensures the results are reliable and free from any bias. It is also the best way to get faster results.

Understanding Placebo-Controlled Clinical Trials

Opportunities to test new drugs to treat mesothelioma are more limited than for more common forms of cancer. The placebo-controlled trials present a great opportunity for doctors and patients alike. Fewer participants are required to fill these studies and this results in a faster collection and review of the results. Faster results means finding out which drugs are effective, and which aren’t, faster.

Placebo-controlled trials are never used if a proven treatment exists for the patient at their specific stage of mesothelioma.

Placebo-controlled trials produce faster results because they use a control group of participants. The control group is used to compare to the group receiving the drug and helps researchers determine if the drug had any discernible effect. Without a control group, researchers don’t know for sure if improvements in survival are caused by the drug being tested.

Given that mesothelioma is so rare, and only a fraction of mesothelioma patients participate in clinical trials, this is makes placebo-controlled trials truly beneficial to developing new treatments for patients.

What If I’m In the Control Group?

No one wants to be in the control group. However, getting the placebo doesn’t change anything for many mesothelioma patients—they are still get the same standard of care they would have received regardless. Sometimes participants get access to even better care than they had before joining the clinical trial. This is because the clinical trials are held at the best cancer centers with world-renowned medical staff.

Here are some things each patient should know:

  • Neither the patient or the doctor is aware of who received the placebo.
  • Those who receive a placebo are chosen at random.
  • A single trial does not offer individualized treatment.
  • If a patient’s condition worsens, they can drop out of the trial.
  • All participants receive the same quality of medical care offered by the cancer center.

Mesothelioma Patients and Placebo-Controlled Studies

Clinical trials provide a great benefit for patients with mesothelioma. Most ethical doubts regarding placebo-controlled trials are cast by professionals toward diseases for which there are many treatment options (usually non life-threatening illnesses like asthma). Mesothelioma, however, currently only has one standard, approved treatment, so clinical trials are the best way to get access to innovative treatments.

Every placebo-controlled clinical trial abides by the following rules:

  • 1
    Capable of Results – The study must be capable of producing results. Using a control group is the best way to get results.
  • 2
    Avoiding Unnecessary Harm – Mesothelioma patients who choose to participate in placebo-controlled trials are those for whom there are no other treatments with significant curative potential.
  • 3
    Potential Benefit – Offering a treatment option that may benefit the patient is the goal of all clinical trials. Placebo-controlled trials are no different. All trials are backed up by years of research and testing before human trials begin.

More to Consider

Getting a Placebo

The possibility of receiving a placebo in a clinical trial is a concern for some patients. At later stages of mesothelioma, however, treatments for patients are limited. The chance of receiving a new drug could be the tipping point for extending survival time, and participants still get care from the best doctors in the field—regardless of whether they receive the placebo or the experimental drug.

Opting Out

Participants in a clinical trial have the option to drop out of the trial if their condition gets worse. Additionally, experimental drugs are only tested on patients for whom there is no proven effective treatment available. Participants should always be aware of their ability to opt out.

Limited Options

The main reason mesothelioma patients participate in placebo-controlled trials is because they have exhausted more traditional forms of treatment. These trials are for those who are determined to keep fighting. If you want to keep fighting, get connected with recruiting clinical trials today.

Add-On to Standard of Care

Experimental drugs for mesothelioma patients are only tested after all options have been exhausted. A placebo-controlled trial is considered an “add-on” to standard of care treatment.

An example of the placebo-controlled trial as an “add-on” to standard care treatment is the investigational study of an immunotherapy drug known as CRS-207. Participants in this study have already been treated with standard chemotherapy with Alimta and cisplatin, and therefore, have limited options. Participants in the study must also not be eligible for surgery.

Should You Enroll in a Clinical Trial?

Mesothelioma is a life-threatening illness with fewer treatment options than more common cancers. Most mesothelioma patients get the best treatment possible for the stage of their disease. However, once the disease reaches a certain point, there is little that can be accomplished with traditional treatments. Clinical trials are a potentially beneficial next step.

Questions to Ask Before Enrolling:

  • How is the trial different from standard treatment?
  • What are the potential side effects?
  • Are there any other treatment options available for my diagnosis?

Many mesothelioma patients are limited to pain relief treatment options late stage, but it doesn’t mean there isn’t a chance to turn things around. Clinical trials, placebo-controlled or not, are a chance to live longer. If you are interested in expanding the availability of treatments for you or your family member, explore your options through clinical trials.