Clinical trials help find new ways to treat diseases. They test methods to find,
prevent, diagnose, or treat cancer.1 Trials may
offer screening and even treatment that some people may not have access to.
Types of Clinical Trials
These are the four types of clinical trials in cancer research:
Prevention trials explore ways to help lower the risk of getting cancer.
They also look at ways to keep cancer from coming back in people who did have the
disease, or from moving to another part of the body.2
Screening trials test ways to find cancer early.2
Treatment trials test new types of treatments or new ways of using current
treatments. This might include a new cancer drug or a new kind of surgery or radiation.
Trials also might look at a combination of these treatments.2
Quality of life trials:
Quality of life trials help to find ways to improve quality of life and
comfort for cancer patients.2 They are also called
supportive care trials.
Clinical Trial Phases
Trials are made up of many steps.2 This process
helps find out if a new treatment works and is safe. It also helps find if a new
tool to screen for cancer is correct. Each step lets doctors ask questions that
protect patients, while finding answers and details about the drug.
The development of new drugs usually involves four phases:
Phase I helps determine how a new cancer treatment or drug should be given, such
as how often the drug should be given and what dose is safe. They often involve
only a relatively small number of patients.3
In Phase II, a new cancer treatment or drug is studied to find out if it works and
is safe in people.2 These trials often help to
determine the types of patients who respond best or have adverse side effects and
the dosage schedule of the drug that works best.
Phase III further tests if a new cancer treatment, a previously approved treatment,
or a new combination of cancer treatments are safe and how well they work. People
in the trial may be assigned at random (by chance) to either receive the new treatment,
the current standard of care or sometimes a placebo (sugar pill) to see which one
works better. This is called randomization. Phase III studies tend to look at a
large number of people from many places across the country or around the world.
Phase IV trials are performed to provide additional data on the use and safety of
a cancer treatment after it has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration
Taking part in a clinical trial may not be right for everyone. You may want to talk
to your doctor to see if there are any trials for your cancer type, and whether
being in a trial is right for you.