Compassionate Use of Experimental Cancer Treatments

In some cases, experimental treatment may offer hope to cancer patients who have not had success with more traditional methods. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) offers a compassionate use program that allows certain patients to gain access to experimental drugs or treatments without being a part of a clinical trial. Filing for treatment through a compassionate use request is a long and often difficult process, but could offer renewed hope to some cancer patients.

The first step to trying an experimental cancer treatment is to discuss your options with your doctor. Ask him or her what traditional treatments are offered for your illness, and what the success rate is for each of these treatments. Also ask about experimental treatments that may be available to you. In order to receive treatment through the compassionate use program, your doctor needs to communicate with the drug company and also submit an application to the FDA.

Before a patient can be considered for the FDA’s compassionate use program, he or she must meet certain criteria:

  • His or her disease is serious or immediately life-threatening
  • Either traditional (approved) treatments have failed to work, the patient is not a candidate for traditional treatment, or there is no traditional treatment for his or her illness
  • The patient may not be eligible for clinical trials designed to test the experimental treatment or drug
  • The doctor must agree that experimental treatment may benefit the patient and that no other options area viable
  • The company that makes the drug must agree to provide that drug to the patient in question

You can learn more about the requirements for compassionate use treatment by visiting the FDA website.

There are a number of factors that must be considered before a patient decides to pursue experimental cancer treatment. Since experimental drugs will be used without FDA approval, they may not have been proven effective yet and any risks or side effects that accompany the treatment may be unknown. The application process for experimental treatment is often very time-consuming and can last for months. In addition to this, the patient’s doctor may not support his or her request for experimental treatment or the desired drug or treatment may not be available for experimental use.

The decision to turn to experimental treatment for cancer is a difficult one that is fraught with questions and “what-ifs”. If you would like to learn more about experimental treatment for your cancer, do a little research, discuss your options with your family and friends, and, most importantly, depend on the guidance of a doctor you trust.