Clinical Trials

Patient Resources

Your healthcare provider can provide information about whether a clinical trial is right for you. Another excellent resource is the National Cancer Institute at the National Institutes of Health. The information on this page is excerpted from that site’s information on Clinical Trials.

What are clinical trials?

What are the different types of clinical trials?

What are the phases of clinical trials?

How can I learn more about on-going clinical trials?

What are some additional resources for blood related cancers?

What are clinical trials?

Clinical trials are research studies that involve people. They are the final step in a long process that begins with research in a lab. Most treatments we use today are the results of past clinical trials.

  • Treat cancer
  • Find and diagnose cancer
  • Prevent cancer
  • Manage symptoms of cancer or side effects from its treatment

Trials are available for all stages of cancer. It is a myth that they are only for people who have advanced cancer that is not responding to treatment.

Every trial has a person in charge, usually a doctor, who is called the principal investigator. The principal investigator prepares a plan for the trial, called a protocol. The protocol explains what will be done during the trial. It also contains information that helps the doctor decide if this treatment is right for you.

  • The reason for doing the trial
  • Who can join the trial (called “eligibility requirements”)
  • How many people are needed for the trial
  • Any drugs that will be given, how they will be given, the dose, and how often
  • What medical tests will be done and how often
  • What types of information will be collected about the people taking part

Clinical trials are key to developing new methods to prevent, detect, and treat cancer. It is through clinical trials that researchers can determine whether new treatments are safe and effective and work better than current treatments. When you take part in a clinical trial, you add to our knowledge about cancer and help improve cancer care.

Learn more about clinical trials.

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What are the different types of clinical trials?

Cancer clinical trials differ according to their primary purpose. They include the following types:

These trials test the effectiveness of new treatments or new ways of using current treatments in people who have cancer. The treatments tested may include new drugs or new combinations of currently used drugs, new surgery or radiation therapy techniques, and vaccines or other treatments that stimulate a person’s immune system to fight cancer. Combinations of different treatment types may also be tested in these trials.

These trials test new interventions that may lower the risk of developing certain types of cancer. Most cancer prevention trials involve healthy people who have not had cancer; however, they often only include people who have a higher than average risk of developing a specific type of cancer.

These trials test new ways of finding cancer early. When cancer is found early, it may be easier to treat and there may be a better chance of long-term survival. Cancer screening trials usually involve people who do not have any signs or symptoms of cancer.

These trials study new tests or procedures that may help identify, or diagnose, cancer more accurately. Diagnostic trials usually involve people who have some signs or symptoms of cancer.

Quality of life or supportive care
These trials focus on the comfort and quality of life of cancer patients and cancer survivors. New ways to decrease the number or severity of side effects of cancer or its treatment are often studied in these trials.

Learn more about types of clinical trials.

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What are the phases of clinical trials?

For a treatment to become standard, it must first go through 3 or 4 clinical trial phases. The early phases make sure the treatment is safe. Later phases show if it works better than the standard treatment. You do not have to take part in all phases.

Program Purpose Number of Participants
Phase 1
  • To find a safe dose
  • To decide how the new treatment should be given
  • To see how the new treatment affects the human body
15-30 people
Phase 2
  • To determine if the new treatment has an effect on a certain cancer
  • To see how the new treatment affects the human body
Fewer than 100 people
Phase 3
  • To compare the new treatment (or new use of a treatment) with the current standard treatment
From 100 to several thousand people
Phase 4
  • To further assess the long-term safety and effectiveness of a new treatment
Several hundred to several thousand people

Learn more about phases of clinical trials.

National Cancer Institute/ – NCI, as part of the U.S. National Institutes of Health, coordinates the National Cancer Program, which conducts and supports research, training, health information dissemination, and other programs with respect to the cause, diagnosis, prevention, and treatment of cancer, rehabilitation from cancer, and the continuing care of cancer patients and the families of cancer patients.

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What are some additional resources for blood related cancers?

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