Cancer clinical trials

What are clinical trials?

Cancer treatment clinical trials are research studies to find better ways to treat cancer. These trials look at new drugs or combinations of drugs, new ways of giving radiation treatment, and new types of treatment.

The aim of clinical trials is to find out if a new treatment or procedure is safe; has side effects; works better than the currently used treatment; and helps you feel better.

It is important that men and women of all ages and backgrounds take part in clinical trials so that what is learned will help cancer patients now and in the future.

Clinical trials often compare the most accepted cancer treatment (standard treatment) with a new treatment that doctors hope will be even better.

Some clinical trials don’t compare treatments. All of the patients who enter this kind of trial get the same treatment. The purpose is to collect more information about that treatment so we can better understand its effectiveness and the side effects.

There are three phases of clinical trials. Each treatment being tested has to go through all three phases before it can be used:

  • Phase 1 trials look at whether a trial treatment is safe or has any harmful effects.
  • Phase 2 trials look at how well a treatment works.
  • Phase 3 trials test a new treatment against the current standard treatment (some trials are carried out after a drug has been licensed).

Each trial has rules about who can and cannot take part, such as age, sex, your past medical conditions and type of cancer. Some trials are called randomised trials. This means that there are two or more different groups in the trial. People taking part are put into one or other group at random. This 'randomisation' is usually done by a computer. Each group in the trial has a different treatment. If there are two groups, one group will have the new treatment being tested and the other the standard treatment for their type of cancer. People having the standard treatment are called the 'control group'. A randomised trial that has a control group is called a 'randomised controlled trial'. Your doctor may invite you to consider taking part in a clinical trial.