"You've got the big C. Cancer. A word that changes your life the moment you hear it."
So opened a novel TV, radio and newspaper ad campaign conducted in the greater Sacramento area this spring.
The National Cancer Institute funded campaign sought to help eliminate a major roadblock in the development
of new cancer treatments low participation rates in cancer clinical trials.
"We hope the 'Big C' ad campaign will play a big part in accelerating the pace of clinical trials research
nationally, so that effective new treatments can reach cancer patients much sooner," said Primo "Lucky"
Lara, associate professor of medicine at the UC Davis School of Medicine. Lara last year won a grant from
the NCI and five major pharmaceutical companies to test whether such a campaign can make a difference.
UC Davis Health System helped underwrite the cost of the campaign.
Created by the San Francisco advertising agency, Young & Rubicam, the "Big C" ad campaign had two immediate
goals: to let people know what cancer clinical trials are and why they're important, and to increase awareness
of a new California law that requires health insurers, in most cases, to cover the trials.
Only 3 percent of adult cancer patients nationally participate in clinical trials, the rigorous scientific
studies that determine whether a new treatment is safe and effective. Such low participation rates prolong
drug development and delay patient access to potentially effective new agents.
Preliminary "Big C" results are encouraging 760 people heeded the call to learn more
about cancer clinical trials by dialing (800) 2-UCDAVIS or visiting www.ucdaviscancerclinicaltrials.org.
E-visitors used the new site's patient-friendly search tool more than 1,000 times to look up clinical
trials by cancer type. And 125 cancer patients who responded to the ad were referred to the cancer center
for possible inclusion in a clinical trial.
Lara's next step is to compare public awareness surveys he conducted before and after the campaign in
Sacramento and San Diego, which served as a control. He hopes more Sacramentans in the post-campaign survey
will correctly answer the question, "What is a clinical trial?" (Some pre-campaign respondents
replied, "a court case.") He also hopes more people are now aware that cancer clinical trials
are nearly always covered by insurance. If the campaign meets expectations, the NCI will be able to use
the ad campaign throughout the nation.