Information about commonly used treatments:
MEDLINE is the National Library of Medicine's database of indexed journal citations and abstracts covering approximately 4,500 medical and scientific journals published in the United States and more than 70 other countries. MEDLINE includes references to articles indexed from 1966 to the present and new citations are added weekly. The database is available online through PubMed (a service of the National Library of Medicine).
understand the abstracts and articles you will find on MEDLINE, the following
glossary and explanation of terms may be helpful.
Glossary of Some Cancer Terminology You May Encounter
Because there is no uniform cure for many cancers, especially pediatric cancers, most articles you will find will discuss the results of a clinical trial.
Trial - is a research study performed by physicians and other
health professionals to help determine if a treatment (a medication, device,
procedure, or method) is safe and effective. Every clinical trial is designed
to answer a set of research questions. Participation in a clinical trial
is voluntary. A patient who agrees to participate can choose to stop participation
at any time.
Investigators – Clinical Trials are usually led by investigators. In the context of cancer, an investigator is usually a physician (i.e. oncologist). For research sponsored by companies, investigators are may be paid for their time and effort. This payment may be per patient enrolled on the study or through some other formula.
Protocol – The investigators who conduct a clinical trial follow a treatment plan. This treatment plan is called a “protocol.”
Sponsors – The Clinical Trial’s sponsor can be a pharmaceutical or a biotechnology company developing treatments they plan to market. Government agencies, foundations and groups dedicated to researching certain diseases can also sponsor clinical trials.
Clinical Trial Phases – Before a drug or treatment is FDA approved it usually goes through three stages – Phases I, II, and III.
Many pediatric cancer therapies are not FDA approved because they either have not completed the first three phases, the therapy has not been submitted for FDA approval, or the therapy was not approved after submission.
Response Rates – In gauging the success of a clinical trial, “response rates” are often used. The following terms are utilized to measure whether there was a response:
Evaluable Patients are those patients who completed a protocol and could be evaluated. Response rates may be based on the number of “evaluable patients.” Some children, however, may not be evaluable because they died before they completed the protocol.
Rate is Not a Survival Rate – Although the measurement
of “responses” provides a convenient measure to oncologists,
a response may be short-lived and a response rate is not equivalent to
a survival rate. This is demonstrated by excerpts from two peer reviewed
“…Responses were short lived, with two patients relapsing while still receiving chemotherapy. Three of four very young children relapsed within 7 months of completing chemotherapy…”