Research Education

What Are Cancer Clinical Trials?

Clinical trials are research studies. Research studies are used to learn of new and better ways to treat, prevent, diagnose or manage symptoms of cancer. Several of the current standard treatments available today are based on results of past clinical trials.

Before a new treatment is made available to the general public it must go through a series of clinical trial phases or steps.

Phase I is the first step for research in people. The purpose of a phase I study is to determine the safest dose, to learn about side effects and to learn the best way to give the treatment

Step 2 of the process is called Phase II. In this phase the goal is to learn about how the new treatment affects a particular type of cancer and learn more about side effects.

Step 3 of testing a new treatment is called Phase III. In this step the new treatment is compared with the current standard treatment.

The final step is Phase IV. This goal of the Phase IV clinical trials is to learn about long-term safety and effectiveness of the new treatment.

There are strict rules for clinical trial participation by patients, health care providers and hospitals. These rules are in place to protect patient safety and ensure that the results of the study are accurate.

Each clinical trial has specific criteria for participation. These criteria usually include a particular type or stage of cancer, prior treatment (surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy) for the cancer and patient’s age.

Clinical trials participation is completely voluntary. Patients may leave the study at any time. Their doctor will continue to take care of them no matter what they decide.

Please ask your doctor to see if there may be a clinical trial available for you.