What is a Clinical Trial?
A clinical trial is a research study designed to answer specific questions about how to better prevent, diagnose and treat cancer. Clinical trials (also called medical research and research studies) are used to determine whether new drugs or treatments are both safe and effective. Carefully conducted clinical trials are the fastest and safest way to find treatments that work, and almost all advances made in cancer treatment have occurred because of knowledge gained through clinical trials.
Ideas for clinical trials usually come from researchers. Once researchers test new therapies or procedures in the laboratory and get promising results, they begin planning clinical trials. New therapies are tested on people only after laboratory and animal studies show promising results.
The Benefits of Clinical Trials
The benefits patients receive from this commitment to clinical trails go beyond increased treatment options and reduced travel times. The ability to receive leading-edge treatment offer the hope of more aggressive treatment, fewer and less severe side effects and a subsequent improvement in quality of life. That’s why Summit Cancer Care continues to explore ways to expand its involvement in clinical trial programs and bring still more options to its patients.
Types of Clinical Trials:
The National Cancer Institute recognizes three types of clinical trials:
1. Treatment trials test new treatments such as surgical procedures, drugs or drug combinations.
2. Prevention trials test new approaches to lower cancer occurrence, including diet, nutritional supplements or medicines.
3. Quality of life trials, also called supportive care trials, look at ways to improve comfort by relieving symptoms and pain.
Phases of Clinical Trials
Between the time they emerge from the laboratory and their routine use on cancer patients, investigational therapies go through the following phases:
Phase I trials are designed to study safety issues such as how a drug should be given (by mouth or injections), how often and at what dose.
Phase II trials continue to study the new therapy’s safety and begin to evaluate its effectiveness in fighting cancer.
Phase III trials examine how the new therapy compares to standard treatments, the “benchmark” for measuring and evaluating new and improved possibilities in treating cancer.
In Phase IV, the new research becomes an accepted standard treatment in the arsenal used to fight cancer.
Is a clinical trial right for you?
Perhaps. For many patients who have already tried existing standard therapies, clinical trials offer additional hope. Participants also know that they are contributing a great deal to help others, down the road. Those enrolled in clinical trials are often part of a national effort, since these studies involve many patients in different areas and allow physicians and researchers to share and exchange information. But before participating in a clinical trial, it’s important to understand its purpose, benefits, risks and side effects. Those who elect to participate will be asked to sign an informed consent and are free to leave the study at any time.