What are cancer clinical trials and why are they important?

Clinical trials for cancer are research studies that involve real patients. These studies are important for many reasons. They act as a powerful tool to help doctors find improved diagnosis and treatment methods. In most cases when someone is about to begin cancer treatment, clinical trials are an option to discuss with your doctor.

Who can be a part of a clinical trial?

Patients of all ages can join clinical trials. Also, there are usually clinical trials available for any stage of cancer. It’s important to remember that all clinical trials are voluntary and a patient can choose to leave a clinical trial at any time, for any reason.

What are the phases of cancer clinical trials?

  • Phase I: First studies to involve humans
    • Doctors keep a very close eye on patients in phase I studies
    • Start with a very low dose of the treatment to check for side effects
  • Phase II: Treatments found to be safe in phase I can move on to phase II
    • More is understood about the dose and method of treatment in phase II
    • A larger number of patients are treated in phase II studies
    • Lower risk of less common side effects
  • Phase III: Compare the safety and effectiveness of new treatment against current treatment options available
    • Patients in phase III studies are usually picked at random to receive either standard treatment or the new treatment
    • As with the other two phases, phase III patients are watched closely for side effects and treatment is stopped if necessary

How do I find a clinical trial that’s right for me?

Aside from doing a bit of research about current clinical trials, talk to your doctor.
Exciting new cancer clinical trials

  • Trials of drugs that specifically target the cancer cells and leave normal cells alone
  • Trials of drugs that activate a patient's immune system to fight the cancer
  • Trials testing drugs that are targeted to specific mutations in the cancer cells, which may be independent of cancer type