IN State Lead Volunteer on the Importance of Clinical Trials

August 10, 2021

The Importance of Clinical Trials

By Arya Baladevigan, ACS CAN Volunteer (IN-05)


Cancer research generates cutting-edge treatments that are used to improve survival and quality of life for patients with cancer. The immense progress that has been made in treating cancer over the decades can be primarily sourced from scientific research, specifically, clinical trials. The dramatic milestones that have been reached in treating cancer have mainly come from experimental research such as testing new medications and new procedures. The essential objective of clinical trials is to identify new and more advanced therapies.  Despite the incredible discoveries and significant treatments that have been developed as a result of clinical trials, they rarely get the funding they need to sustain.


Clinical Trials are key to Progress in Cancer Care

Clinical trials are critical in discovering the effectiveness of new cancer treatments. The most significant benefit of clinical trials is that they provide a way to explore and examine the most effective means to prevent, diagnose, and treat cancer. Clinical trials have the potential to not only benefit current generations but future ones as well. Furthermore, they provide diverse options for cancer patients, while allowing physicians to improve cancer care. The patients who participate in these studies gain access to the most recent changes in treatment, prevention, and diagnosis that are developed by leading cancer specialists around the nation. 

Clinical studies drive health and cancer care forward. Clinical trials focus on creating new cancer therapies, while refining existing ones.  Through research, scientists discover what methods are successful and which ones are not as effective. Research saves lives and is the main way to improve outcomes for cancer patients. For example, through clinical studies, scientists found that many less invasive surgeries with fewer risks and side effects can be just as effective as a much more extreme surgery. Studies, such as this one, allow cancer treatment and care to be more comfortable and effective for patients.  

Advancements that have been made through clinical trials:

  • The five-year survival rate for all childhood cancer combined went from only 65 percent in 1975 to 85 percent now.
  • The U.S. cancer death rate has declined by 20 percent from 1991 to 2017
  • Today, we have more than 16.9 million cancer survivors because of previous federal investments in cancer research and prevention
  • Deaths from the most common type of lung cancer in the United States fell 6.3% each year from 2013 to 2016
  • The five-year survival rate for adults with cancer overall is now 68 percent, while it was 50 percent in 1975
  • The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved around 50 molecularly targeted therapies. These include Herceptin, Avastin, and Gleevec.
  • Improvements have been made in radiation therapy in order to decrease side effects and improve therapy effectiveness.

The Problem

Even though progress can’t be made without these studies, 1 in 5 cancer clinical trials fail due to a  lack of participation. Ethnic minorities, older Americans, rural Americans, and poorer Americans are among the groups that continue to be under-represented in cancer clinical trials. In addition, there is a 4-fold disparity in the proportion participating in clinical trials submitted to FDA for drug approval. With COVID-19 upending clinical trials across the country, new policies to ensure clinical trials include patients from diverse backgrounds are even more crucial. ACS CAN sees this as the first step to reduce barriers minorities currently encounter and increase diversity in cancer clinical trials.  Furthermore, clinical trials and impactful research rely on consistent funding increases. ACS CAN supports policies that remove barriers to cancer clinical trials and ensure that more clinical trials are available for all Americans.

Hear Mary’s story about the real-life impact of clinical trials:

“My name is Mary Kost and I am from New Albany, Indiana. My story is about my Mother-in-Law, Wilma Kost. In 1997, she was diagnosed with a very rare form of cancer, Leiomyosarcoma (LMS). About 4 people in a million are diagnosed with this form of cancer. She spent the next year and a half in conventional treatment, including surgery and chemotherapy to no avail. In the spring of 1999, she participated in a research clinical trial for a new procedure called a belly wash. In this surgery, her entire abdominal cavity was opened, and all visible tumors were removed. Then all of her internal organs were bathed with a heated chemotherapy drug, Cisplatium. The drug was heated to a temperature so high that her entire body had to be packed in ice to prevent her core body temperature from rising and causing brain damage. This procedure came with many risks and dangers. But it didn’t bother Mom. She bravely said, “no matter what happens to me, win, lose or draw, somebody somewhere will benefit from what they learn from me.” Just six months later, we lost Mom on September 11th, 1999. But this isn’t where the story ends.  on September 3, 2003, another lady from New Albany, IN, Beth Rodewig, had the same belly wash procedure done in Louisville, KY. In just four short years, this procedure had become a standard of care. Today, Beth owns her own successful business. She is a wife, a daughter, a mother, a sisterand my friend.  We both work together to raise money for The American Cancer Society  and support ACS CAN!”



ACS CAN is committed to supporting initiatives in research, prevention, and detection of cancer. For more information, visit