Tag Archive for sarcoma

Announcing Cancer Survivor’s Scholarship

I’d like to introduce you to yet another new scholarship program for cancer survivors- the first annual Survivors Scholarshipcreated and funded by The Law Offices of Chalik & Chalik.  This $1000 scholarship is open to any cancer survivor attending college or law school this spring.  The award will be paid directly to the college in the student’s name to help with tuition or materials costs.  Additional requirements include:

  • Recipient must be a U.S. citizen or otherwise authorized to work in the United States
  • Recipient has been accepted, and will be or is attending a certified University or Law School in the Spring of 2015
  • Academic achievement as reflected by an undergraduate cumulative minimum 3.0 GPA

 

How to Apply

Complete the Survivors Scholarship online application as well as a short personal essay about how cancer has influenced your choice to pursue a higher education.  Applicants will also be required to provide an official copy of his or her college or high school transcripts.  The deadline is January 12, 2015. (scholarship will applied to the upcoming spring semester).

The scholarship winner will be determined solely by a selection committee based on the written essay and application criteria listed above.

For more information, visit Chalik & Chalik Survivors Scholarship website.

All questions should be directed to media@chaliklaw.com.  For more information, visit Chalik & Chalik Survivors Scholarship website.

Giving Thanks for this FREE Thanksgiving Dinner

 

Fifth Season Financial is looking to donate a Thanksgiving dinner with all the trimmings to three patients diagnosed with an advanced cancer and their families.

Here’s how it works:

Visit Fifth Season Financial.com to fill out the form on the right side of the page.  You can either nominate a patient or they can fill out the form themselves.  Entries must be made on behalf of a person who is:

  • 18 years or older
  • Diagnosed with an advanced cancer
  • A United States citizen or permanent resident

At 11:00 am on November 20, three winners will be selected. Winners will receive a gift certificate in the amount of $250 to be used at a local supermarket or food caterer.  Winners will be contacted directly so they can provide details of where their special dinner should be ordered from and sent to.

#ThankfulForYou #HappyThanksgiving

Questions to Ask Your Oncologist at the Initial Consultation

 

When we received Alan’s diagnosis of sarcoma, we were in complete shock and terrified. We could barely breathe, much less begin to have an intelligent conversation with our doctor.  Fortunately we had a day to process the diagnosis and were then able to make an attempt at preparing for our initial meeting with our medical oncologist.

 

Depending on the doctor that you are meeting with, he or she may or may not be proactive in giving you all the information you need to really understand what’s going on.  Since you don’t know ahead of time which type of doctor you’ll be meeting, it’s best to come prepared with a written list of questions you have.

 

Cancer.net and MyCancer.com are two sites that list out fantastic questions to ask your doctor before you begin cancer treatments.  Below are some of the questions found on these sites as well as from my own personal experience.  Ask only those questions that you believe would help you, and feel free to overlook those that wouldn’t.

  • What are my treatment options?
  • Which treatments, or combination of treatments, do you recommend? Why?
  • What is the goal of the treatment you are recommending?  To cure or to extend life or to ease symptoms?
  • When will you know if the treatment is working and how?
  • What clinical trials (research studies involving people) are open to me?
  • Who will be part of my treatment team, and what does each member do?
  • How much experience do you (or the treatment team) have treating this type of cancer?
  • How effective and useful do you feel biomarker testing and analysis are for my particular cancer?
  • How likely is it that molecular profiling will uncover something useable for my cancer?
  • What will happen if molecular profiling identifies an “off-label” treatment that might be effective for me?
  • Will I need to be hospitalized for treatment, or is this treatment done in an outpatient clinic?
  • What is the expected timeline for my treatment plan? Do I need to be treated right away?
  • How will this treatment affect my daily life? Will I be able to work, exercise, and perform my usual activities?
  • What are the expected (not possible) side effects of the treatment you are recommending?
  • Will this treatment affect my fertility (ability to become pregnant or father children)?  If so, have a discussion on fertility preservation.
  • How can I keep myself as healthy as possible during treatment?
  • Are there any supplementary treatments, vitamins or nutritional aids that would help my treatments?

 

A few additional suggestions…

  • If possible, bring a friend or someone who can be objective on the appointment(s) with you.  These appointments can be overwhelming and processing all the information you will be given may be difficult to do.
  • Take notes or better yet, bring a recorder (Thank goodness for smart phones).
  • Know that at each doctor’s appointment and stage of treatment, more questions will come up.
  • Ask questions, even if you think they’re stupid.  After all, the only stupid question is a question not asked.
  • When formulating treatment plans, always get a second opinion.  Although it might seem overwhelming, second opinions will either confirm what you’ve already been told or present different options to weigh.

 

What additional questions did you ask or wished you had asked?  Do you have any additional advice for the newly diagnosed?  

Personalizing Your Treatment Plan with Cancer Panels

 

No two people are alike; and no two cancers are alike.  This explains why two people with the same cancer diagnosis can respond differently to the same treatment regimen. This is the basic premise behind precision medicine and individualized treatments.

 

Now imagine a room filled with top oncology experts and scientists.   In this room, a 3 hour conversation takes place about one individual’s cancer diagnosis.  Various treatment approaches- both conventional and novel are discussed and debated.  The end result: the treating physician is given treatment recommendations created just for that cancer patient by renowned oncology experts.  Talk about personalized medicine at it’s best!  Watch one patient’s perspective on Cancer Panels in the above video.

 

Panels can be set in as little as two weeks and are typically led by Dr. David Sidransky, renown oncologist and researcher.  The panel also reconvenes at a later date via teleconference to review the cancer patient’s progress and other developments.  If necessary, the panel will make additional treatment recommendations and suggestions. For more information, visit Cancer Panels website.

6 Signs That It May Be Time to Fire Your Oncologist

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In case you missed my most recent article for Huffington Post, I am reposting it here on CancerHawk…  After reading it, let us know if you’ve ever “fired” a doctor… What was YOUR reason?  

 

We all know there is no such thing as a perfect doctor. We also know that no doctor always says the right thing, no doctor knows all the answers, and no doctor can always be there for us whenever we want them to be. With that said, there are instances when you may need to find a doctor that is better suited for you.

So how do you know when it’s time to make a switch?

1. Your oncologist doesn’t think you should get a second opinion.

Second opinions are extremely important. They will either confirm what you’ve already been told or present different options to weigh.

Although most doctors welcome another physician’s input, there are some that do not. Those doctors may even get frustrated or angry when you suggest talking to another professional. If your oncologist doesn’t support your getting a second opinion, thenSWITCH doctors.

Remember, getting additional opinions may be required at different points in your care — not just at the initial diagnosis.

2. You don’t feel comfortable talking to your oncologist.

Being best friends with your oncologist is not required. You don’t even have to like your doctor. But you do have to feel comfortable talking to them about anything related to your health.

If you are too embarrassed to tell your doctor something, get over it. On the other hand, if you’re hesitant to raise concerns or ask about things you’ve read on the Internet for fear of the lecture you’ll receive, then SWITCH oncologists. A good oncologist appreciates a knowledgeable, well-informed patient and is receptive to such conversations.

3. Your oncologist keeps you in the dark about anything related to your treatment or speaks in medical jargon that’s difficult to comprehend.

A successful doctor-patient relationship requires 100 percent honesty. Doctors must be candid with their patients about topics ranging from the goal of treatment to the pros and cons of each treatment option to test results even if they are unfavorable. And doctors must have these conversations using simple terms that the patient understands.

If you feel that your oncologist is not being honest with you or does not take the time to explain complicated medical jargon or answer your questions in a way that satisfies you, then SWITCH doctors. Your health is far too important for you to be misled, uninformed or confused.

4. The office staff is difficult to work with or unprofessional.

This may sound trivial, as the office staff is not directly responsible for your medical care. However, telephone calls need to be returned promptly. Test results must be easily obtainable. Appointments need to be conveniently scheduled. Insurance claims must be accurately filed. The people at the front desk should be somewhat pleasant.

If you feel that the office staff is difficult to work with or unprofessional, then talk to your doctor. If the situation doesn’t improve, you may want to consider making theSWITCH.

5. Your doctor does not keep abreast of the latest advances in cancer care.

While many doctors are knowledgeable about the latest advances in treating cancer, there are those oncologists who are not. Has your oncologist explained to you that no two cancers are alike? Has your doctor spoken to you about molecular profiling and tumor testing? If you’ve been diagnosed with melanoma, has your doctor spoken to you about a recent FDA-approved immunotherapy regimen?

With each passing day, researchers learn more about cancer and how to better fight this disease. New treatments are morphing some cancers into a manageable disease rather than a death sentence. If your oncologist is not up-to-date on the latest and greatest advances in cancer care and personalized or precision medicine, then make the SWITCH to a new oncologist.

6. Your doctor is not a “realistic optimist.”

At the end of the day, fighting a diagnosis of cancer requires hope. Surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, waiting for test results, and so many other aspects of this disease can mentally and physically beat even the toughest of people down. Hope that good health will once again return is what gets people back on their feet, ready to take on another day.

Although oncologists must be honest and realistic with their patients, they can still be hopeful and never give up. Even with a grim diagnosis, there is always hope that a person can beat the odds. Personally, I will never again work with a doctor who has not had a patient that beat the odds. Had I known what I know now, I would have made the SWITCH solely based on this point.

The bottom line… After being diagnosed with cancer, even once a clean bill of health is given, your oncologist will continue to follow and screen you for many years to come. This relationship is a long-term partnership and should be viewed as such.

You deserve to get the best possible care from your doctor(s). And if you are not happy with the care you are receiving for whatever reason, you have the right to fire that doctor and find another provider.

Patients who take an active role in their health care tend to have better outcomes. So take an active role in your health care even if it means making difficult choices or going outside of your comfort zone. Your life may depend on it.

Hope In A Mouse Kept Us Afloat

 

Science Magazine

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I am truly honored to have been interviewed by Jennifer Couzin-Frankel of Science Magazine for the article she wrote on using animal models to guide patient care as this is where my family’s battle with cancer led us.  You can read Jennifer’s  article “Hope In A Mouse” by clicking here.  Thank you Jennifer for including my perspective in this amazing, well-balanced and informative article.  

 

A little more info on our experience….

When I look back on my family’s war with cancer, I believe that “hope” kept us afloat.  

We tried everything possible to gain control over the cancer that was ravaging my husband’s body, but nothing was working.  We were under the care of top doctors in sarcoma (that is after we fired our first oncologist); we followed the advice of a nutritionist who specialized in working with oncology patients (as a result, my husband Alan had never looked better and his body became strong enough to withstand the massive amounts of toxic therapies he received); we even worked with a spiritual healer (what can I say, we were desperate).

 

Come November 2009, we were left with no options… and no hope.  It was pure luck (and one amazing Uncle) that led us to Champions Oncology.  Champions offered us the ability to implant Alan’s cancer into immunodeficient mice (mice with no immune system); test any drug or treatment regimen in these mice; and if we were lucky enough to find something that killed off Alan’s cancer in the mice, there was a really good chance it would do the same in Alan’s body.

 

Although we knew the odds of success were not in our favor, the ability to test different therapies against Alan’s tumors in mice using the Champions TumorGraft gave us hope. Hope gave us the strength to get out of bed each day and enjoy whatever time our family had left together.

 

Although we did not find a cure for Alan’s cancer or anything to substantially slow down its growth, we know that we tried everything possible to beat this diagnosis.  I sleep at night knowing that we left no stone unturned.

 

My family’s battle with cancer led me to create CancerHawk.  My mission is to connect cancer patients and caregivers to groups and resources they never knew existed or even thought to seek out- groups like Champions Oncology for instance.  Knowledge is hope.  And hope is everything.

 

Read the article Hope In A Mouse” in this week’s Science Magazine and let us know what you think…  Would you want access to an experimental approach to guide your treatment even if it’s not yet 100% proven?  Or would you prefer that researchers keep it locked up until it is?

 

 

 

 

 

got Cancer? meet CancerCare

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Despite the fact that CancerCare is a national organization providing free support services to anyone affected by cancer in the US and Puerto Rico, not everyone knows about them or about the amazing assistance they offer.  Candidly, I wish I had known about them when we were battling my husband’s cancer.

CancerCare literally helps anyone touched by cancer, and I mean A-N-Y-O-N-E -patients, caregivers, survivors, family and even friends.   Services include free individual counseling, free support groups, free resource referrals, free meals, financial assistance and even the ability to connect with leading cancer experts.

 

FREE Counseling Services

CancerCare‘s free counseling is available over the telephone, online or in person. All support groups are led by masters level oncology social workers and allow participants to connect and identify with others in similar situations.

  • In-person groups are held at CancerCare offices in New York City, Long Island, New Jersey and Connecticut. If people don’t live in these areas, CancerCare will help them find face-to-face support groups in their community.
  • Password-protected online support groups can be accessed 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
  • Telephone support groups connect people with others from across the country who share similar concerns. Regularly scheduled, one-hour sessions take place over six weeks.

To learn more about CancerCare‘s support groups or to register for one, visit www.cancercare.org/support_groups or call 800-813-hope (4673).

 

Connect with a Leading Oncology Expert

CancerCare Connect Education Workshops share the latest information from leading oncology experts. Like all of CancerCare’s services, these one-hour workshops are completely free of charge.  Registrants can listen in live over the phone or online as a webcast.  Topics range from latest advances in specific cancer types to understanding the Affordable Care Act to practical advice for caregivers and so much more.

To see the upcoming schedule of workshops, click HERE.  To listen to past workshops, click HERE.

 

Financial Assistance

In addition to the emotional stress and anxiety that a diagnosis of cancer brings, the financial implications can become burdensome.  Co-pays for chemotherapy, RXs, tests and office visits as well as OTC meds add up quickly.  Other cancer-related costs include travel expenses like gas and parking fees at doctor’s offices; paying for childcare coverage during treatments; the list goes on and on.  Some people even have to stop working during their treatment or the treatment of their child.  Out-of-pocket expenses can put people into debt or make it nearly impossible for them to follow or complete their cancer treatment plan.

CancerCare offers financial assistance for cancer-related costs such as:

  • Transportation to and from cancer treatment
  • Home care
  • Child care
  • Pain medications
  • Lymphedema supplies (breast cancer only)

Check the CancerCare website for specific requirements and grants.  Please note:  If CancerCare does not currently have funding to assist your specific situation, their professional oncology social workers will work to refer you to other financial assistance resources. 

Also check out the CancerCare Co-Payment Assistance Foundation which helps people afford co-payments for chemotherapy and targeted treatment drugs.  To learn more, visit www.cancercarecopay.org.

Meal Assistance

CancerCare partners with Magnolia Meals at Home™, a meal delivery program that helps patients by providing nourishing meals to households affected by breast cancer so that loved ones can spend more quality time together.  This program is currently available in and around Woodcliff Lake, NJ, Andover, MA and Raleigh-Durham, NC as well as areas in New York, New Hampshire and Boston, MA. Eligible participants will receive up to two months of home meal deliveries, each of which will include ten meals and up to ten additional meals for their family members, if requested by the participant.  Visit the Magnolia Meals at Home website for more information.

 

The bottomline:  CancerCare social workers are well trained and experienced in helping patients and their families find the resources and support they need to cope with cancer… free of charge.  So if you or a loved one has been diagnosed with cancer, connect with CancerCare… they can offer help and hope.  

What You Should Know About the 2014-2015 Influenza Season

 

Today marks the first day of Autumn.  I love this time of year…. Alan’s birthday, cooler temperatures, crisp air, beautifully colored leaves, and flu shots.  Yes, you read that right… now is the time- BEFORE winter arrives (and with it, the flu)- when it’s best to get your flu shot.

 

Regardless of how severe this season’s flu will or will not be, it sucks if you are the one who gets it.

 

What do cancer patients & survivors- whose immune system may be weakened from cancer treatments- need to know about the flu?  

 

Doctor’s offices around the country are vaccinating their patients for the upcoming 2014-2015 flu season NOW.  The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends that people who have had cancer or who currently have a diagnosis of cancer- as well as their families and close contacts- get vaccinated by October.

 

Below is important information that every cancer patient & survivor should know about the flu from flu.gov and the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention:

 

  • Having or surviving cancer does NOT put you at an increased risk for getting the flu. It does, however, put you at an increased risk of complications from the flu virus.  Complications include pneumonia, hospitalization and even death.
  • Getting the flu vaccine is your best protection against the flu.  But always talk with your medical team prior to getting vaccinated.    Under certain circumstances, there may be some cancer patients should not get vaccinated.
  • If you are a cancer patient or survivor, do not get the nasal spray- ONLY get the flu shot.
  • Because you are at an increased risk of getting pneumonia, talk to your health care provider about the pneumococcal vaccine.  Discuss the possibility of needing two pneumococcal vaccinations with your health care provider.  This vaccine can help protect you against pneumonia.
  • Call the doctor if you think you’ve been exposed to the flu.  You may be prescribed an antiviral medication, which can help stop the virus from infecting your body.
  • If you haven’t already gotten a flu shot, schedule an appointment with your doctor today.

 

 

2014 – 2015 Top Ranked US Cancer Hospitals

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Each year US News & World Report ranks the top 50 cancer hospitals in the US.  Every hospital ranked is experienced in treating difficult cases.  Reputation among specialists, survival rates, success in keeping patients safe and patient volume are among the criteria used to evaluate the cancer hospitals.  For a complete explanation of how these rankings are determined, click HERE.

*** Regardless of which hospital center you choose, even if it’s a top ranked one, it is still important to get a second opinion… or a 3rd or a 4th. ;-) ***

So without further ado, below are the 2014-2015 US News & World Report’s Top Ranked Hospitals for Cancer:

1.  Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center (New York, NY)

2.  University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center (Houston, TX)

3.  Mayo Clinic (Rochester, MN)

4.  Dana Farber/ Brigham & Women’s Cancer  (Boston, MA)

5.  Johns Hopkins (Baltimore, MD)

6.  University of Washington Medical Center (Seattle, WA)

7.  Massachusetts General Hospital (Boston, MA)

8.  UCSF Medical Center (San Francisco, CA)

9.  UCLA Medical Center (Los Angeles, CA)

10.  Stanford Hospital & Clinics (Stanford, CA)

11.  Hospitals of the University of Pennsylvania-Penn Presbyterian (Philadelphia, PA)

12.  City of Hope (Duarte, CA)

13.  Cleveland Clinic (Cleveland, OH)

14.  New York-Presbyterian University Hospital of Columbia & Cornell (NY, NY)

15.  University of Colorado Hospital (Aurora, CO)

16.  Moffitt Cancer Center (Tampa, FL)

17.  Northwestern Memorial Hospital (Chicago, IL)

18.  Seidman Cancer Center at UH Case Medical (Cleveland, OH)

19.  Fox Chase Cancer Center (Philadelphia, PA)

20.  Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center (Winston-Salem, NC)

21.  Barnes-Jewish Hospital/ Washington University (Saint Louis, MO)

22.  Duke University Hospital (Durham, NC)

23.  USC Norris Cancer Hospital-Keck Medical Center of USC (Los Angeles, CA)

24.  Emory University Hospital (Atlanta, GA)

25.  UC San Diego Medical Center (San Diego, CA)

26.  Mayo Clinic (Phoenix, AZ)

27.  Thomas Jefferson University Hospital (Philadelphia, PA) *tied

27.  University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics (Iowa City, IA)  * tied

29.  University of Kansas Hospital (Kansas City, KS)

30.  Ohio State University James Cancer Hospital (Columbus, OH)

31.  University of Chicago Medical Center (Chicago, IL)

32.  UPMC- University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (Pittsburgh, PA)

33.  Oregon Health and Science University Hospital (Portland, OR)

34.  University of California, Davis Medical Center (Sacramento, CA)

35.  University of Michigan Hospitals and Health Centers (Ann Arbor, MI)

36.  Nebraska Medical Center (Omaha, NE)

37.  Hackensack University Medical Center (Hackensack, NJ)

38.  University of North Carolina Hospitals (Chapel Hill, NC)

39.  Vanderbilt University Medical Center (Nashville, TN) *tied

39.  Yale-New Haven Hospital (New Haven, CT) *tied

41.  Cedars-Sinai Medical Center (Los Angeles, CA)

42.  Houston Methodist Hospital (Houston, TX)

43.  University of Wisconsin Hospital and Clinics (Madison, WI)

44.  Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (Boston, MA)

45.  Florida Hospital Orlando (Orlando, FL)

46.  University of Maryland Medical Center (Baltimore, MD)

47.  Loyola University Medical Center (Maywood, IL)

48.  Mount Sinai Hospital (New York, NY) *tied

48.  Rush University Medical Center (Chicago, IL)

50.  NYU Langone Medical Center (New York, NY)

10 Biggest Cancer Clinical Trial Myths BUSTED

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According to the National Cancer Institute, less than 5% of adult cancer patients sign up for cancer clinical trials.  But how is this possible if clinical trials are considered the backbone of medical research?  It may boil down to the fact that many people have misconceptions about what clinical trials are and how they operate.  In fact, I have been guilty of this… I remember when our Oncologist suggested a clinical trial for Alan’s sarcoma… I immediately assumed that meant we were out of treatment options and at the end of our rope.

Fast forward to today… I read a fantastic article on cancer clinical trials written for the Cleveland Clinic’s Health Hub, a free health information website and eNewsletter.  It was so good that I’m reposting the article below … after all, knowledge is power.  Let’s share the power!

“People have a lot of misconceptions about cancer clinical research trials. They might think patients mostly just take sugar pills instead of receiving actual treatment.  Or they may think clinical research studies are only for people who have no other options.

These and many other common beliefs about cancer clinical research trials are simply not true, says Joshua Beaver, Research Program Manager for Solid Tumor Oncology at Cleveland Clinic.

Mr. Beaver and his colleagues lined up a list of the Top 10 myths that they frequently hear about clinical trials and set about shooting them down one by one:

Myth 1: Participating in clinical research provides no benefit to me as the patient

In fact, trials give patients access to the latest drugs and procedures. Studies show that patients who participate in clinical trials have outcomes at least as good, if not better, than the general patient population.

Myth 2: My doctor can tell me whether or not to consent to clinical research

A physician’s job is to help a potential clinical research patients weigh the pros and cons and otherwise educate them.  Your doctor can’t give you a “yes” or “no” answer or try to predict whether a particular treatment will work or not. Instead, think of your doctor as a helpful resource in making an informed decision.

Myth 3: Researchers treat patients like guinea pigs

This is far from the truth,” Mr. Beaver says, mentioning a survey finding 97 percent of trial participants experienced respectful treatment and care exceeding their expectations.  Often, patients will not even feel like they are part of a study because clinical trials incorporate the best available medicine. Researchers will then adjust treatment to see if enhancements can improve patients’ quality of life or response rates.

Myth 4: Clinical research patients are taking sugar pills

Researchers never use sugar pills in place of the best known treatment for a given cancer, and they are very rarely used in clinical cancer trials whatsoever, Mr. Beaver says. “Patients who join clinical trials will never sacrifice quality of care.”

Myth 5: Health insurance won’t cover the cost

Check with your carrier but the chances are good that coverage will extend to the full cost of your treatment.

Myth 6: Cancer clinical research studies are for people who have no other options

Sometimes clinical trials are a last resort. But many times they simply involve a simple addition or adjustment to a standard treatment plan that can provide patients with a better quality of life.

Myth 7: You need to live near a major hospital to participate

Many clinical trials take place at regional hospitals. “Some trials even extend to local cancer clinics and doctor’s offices,” says Mr. Beaver.

Myth 8: Informed consent exists primarily to protect researchers’ legal interests

Informed consent provides patients with information about their rights as a participant to help them decide whether to participate. Mr. Beaver adds, “The consent process is actually designed to avoid ‘legalese’ and to make absolutely sure that it is understandable to everybody.”

Myth 9: Once you sign the informed consent form, you’re legally bound to participate

Patients have the right to decline participation at any time. Their doctors will then switch to the standard treatment for their condition.

Myth 10: Patients can’t expect medical personnel to keep them informed

Physicians, medical professionals and research staff are all available at any time to help patients. “We know and appreciate that patients’ willingness to participate is what makes cancer trials possible,” Mr. Beaver says.”

(Source: Health Hub from Cleveland Clinic)

Check Out Cleveland Clinic’s FREE Clinical Trials App

Cleveland Clinic has created a free Clinical Trials app for cancer patients to keep abreast of their 130+ active cancer clinical trials. This Cancer Clinical Trials app is available for both Apple and Android devices.

With this app, you can:

The app also includes contacts for patient resources, financial services information, support groups and treatment guides.