A clinical trial is designed to answer a specific question, such as if a new treatment works, or whether one treatment works better than another. Many of today’s most effective, evidence-based cancer therapies– called the standard of care – are the result of clinical trials.
Participating in a cancer clinical trial can give you access to treatments not yet widely available – treatments that hold promise, but are unproven.
Before a new treatment is tested in a clinical trial, it undergoes extensive laboratory testing, often for many years. Only the most promising new treatments make it to the clinical trial stage; for instance, only about 1 in 1,000 of the new drugs developed and researched, is ever tested in a clinical trial.
Patients involved in clinical trials receive a high level of monitoring – and often have more experts involved in their care. Patients benefit from a unique level of attention to every aspect of their health.
Although there is always a chance that a new treatment will be disappointing, the physicians and researchers involved in a study have reason to believe it will be as good as, or better than, current treatments. It’s important to remember that even standard treatments, while effective for many, don’t benefit every patient.
Cancer clinical trials are strictly governed by protocols that spell out exactly what will happen and why. Each protocol is carefully evaluated to safeguard patient safety by the hospital’s Institutional Review Board (IRB), made up of medical experts, scientists, and members of our community. Every detail, down to how many times a patient’s blood will be drawn, is reviewed to determine appropriateness.
If it becomes clear during a clinical trial that one treatment is better than another, the trial is stopped so that all patients receive the treatment. Patients in the trial are the first to benefit.
Placebos are very rarely used in cancer trials and are never used in place of treatment. No patient goes without treatment, where a treatment is available.
The decision to participate in a clinical trial is a personal one. Patients often participate because they hope for a cure, a longer lifespan, an improved quality of life, or want to benefit other cancer patients in the future.
Patients receive extensive information about possible risks and benefits, before deciding whether or not to participate. Participants can quit or leave a trial at any time.
The more you know about cancer clinical trials, the easier your choice will be. Talk to your doctor about all treatment options, including any clinical trials you qualify to participate in.