What is a Clinical Trial?


Clinical trials are studies to find new ways to prevent, detect and treat cancer. The purpose of each clinical trial is to answer a specific question. Our physicians carefully design these studies to find new ways to improve care and quality of life.

There are different types of clinical trials. The type of trial depends on what is being studied. Each study tries to answer a different scientific question. The development of the clinical trial is the result of a carefully thought out research process.

Types of clinical trials include:

  • Cancer treatment trials test new treatments. Examples of cancer treatment trials include the testing of new:
    • Cancer drugs
    • Approaches to surgery or radiation therapy
    • Combinations of treatments
    • Methods, such as gene therapy
  • Cancer prevention trials test new ways to reduce the risk of developing certain types of cancer. Prevention trials are carried out with healthy people who have not been diagnosed with cancer. They may also be carried out with people who have had cancer and are trying to prevent cancer from coming back (recurrence). There are two kinds of cancer prevention trials:
    • Action studies (doing something) find out whether actions people take can prevent cancer. Examples would be, exercising or quitting smoking.
    • Agent studies (taking something) are to find out whether taking certain medicines, vitamins, minerals, or food supplements (or a combination of them) can prevent cancer.
  • Cancer screening trials test the best way to find cancer. Especially in its early stages. Screening trials test new ways of finding cancer in people before they have any cancer symptoms. These methods of detecting cancer, often called screening tests, can include:
    • Imaging tests - tests that take pictures of areas inside the body
    • Laboratory tests - tests that check blood, urine, and other body fluids and tissues
    • Genetic tests - tests that look for inherited genetic markers linked to some types of cancer
  • Cancer genetics trials seek to determine how a person's genes can influence detection, diagnosis, prognosis and treatment. These trials help increase our understanding of the causes of cancer. They also help in developing targeted treatments based on tumor genetics.
  • Quality of life trials study ways to improve comfort and quality of life for cancer patients. Examples of these types of trial include the study of:
    • Drugs to reduce the side effects of cancer treatment
    • Problems encountered by cancer patients, such as fatigue, nausea, pain, weight loss, a risk for second cancers, and depression
    • The benefit of nutrition, group therapy, and other approaches

Talk to your Doctor or Nurse about a Clinical Trial that might be right for you.