Clinical Trials: What are they?

Image of a computer with Clinical Trials: Experimental Treatment May Be Right For YouClinical trials, or research studies, are an important aspect of Cancer Treatment. Clinical trials help to move the basic scientific research from the laboratory into treatments for people. By evaluating the results of these trials, we can find better ways to prevent, detect, and treat cancer. Very few adults with cancer (about three percent) actually participate in clinical trials. We need to test the best cancer prevention, detection, and treatment ideas in the shortest time possible, and this can only happen with participation. At the Portneuf Cancer Center, we are here to assist you with a referral to a clinic trial available at other institutions.

The National Cancer Institute has made a wealth of information available to better explain the clinical trials process. We invite you to explore the NCI’s website and read more about the opportunity that research provides. Please visit www.cancer.gov for more information.

Clinical trials often compare the most accepted cancer treatment (standard treatment) with a new treatment that doctors hope will be better. Each study has rules about who can and cannot participate – such as age, sex, or type of cancer. Think about asking your doctor if you can take part in a study.

Additional Information on Clinical Trials

What kind of information will I get if I want to take part in a clinical trial?

Before you join a study, a doctor, nurse, or other person on the research team will explain why the study is being done, and what will happen during the study. You can ask any questions you have about the study. You will also be given a consent form to read. The consent form will explain:

  • The exact plan for each step in the study.
  •  What side effects you may have.
  • How the study may affect your daily life.

You should ask questions about any part of the consent form you do not understand. If you decide to take part in the study, you will be asked to sign the consent form. Even if you sign the consent form, you can still change your mind and stop at any time.

Who makes sure my rights are protected?

Groups of experts at the national and local levels approve research studies before they begin. One of the most important groups is called an Institutional Review Board (IRB). The IRB’s job is to review research studies and make sure they are run safely and fairly. All clinical trials should be reviewed by an IRB, which includes doctors, nurses, and people from the community.

What are some benefits of being part of a research study?

If you join a study that compares treatments, you will get either:

  • The best accepted treatment for the kind of cancer you have (called standard treatment).
  • A new treatment that doctors hope will be better than the standard treatment.

What doctors learn in studies also helps people who may get cancer in the future.

What are some risks to being part of a research study? 

  • It is not known for sure if the new treatment in the study will help you more than the standard treatment for your cancer.
  • Treatments in studies have side effects.
  • Research studies have costs, and health insurance does not always pay for all your costs in a study. It’s important to talk about these costs with a doctor, nurse, or social worker.

Do I have to take part in a clinical trial?

No. Taking part in a research study is up to you. It is important to look at all of your treatment options with the help of your family and doctor. This will help you decide if a study is the best way to treat your cancer.

You and your family should ask questions before you decide to take part in a research study. Be sure to get all the information before you decide if you want to take part.

More Information

To find out more about clinical trials (research studies) in your area, ask your doctor or call NCI’s Cancer Information Service at 1-800-4-CANCER. You can also visit the web at www.cancer.gov.

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