Clinical Trials: The Basics

Clinical trials are research studies conducted to find new ways to prevent, detect and treat cancer. Every clinical trial has a protocol that describes what will be done in the trial, how the trial will be conducted, and why each part of the trial is necessary.

There are several different types of clinical trials:

  • Cancer genetics trials: These trials determine how genetics influence detection, diagnosis, prognosis and treatment. These trials increase understanding of the causes of cancer, and help develop targeted treatment therapies based on tumor genetics.
  • Cancer prevention trials: 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 the cancer from coming back.
  • Cancer screening trials: Screening trials test new ways of finding cancer in people before they have any cancer symptoms. These methods of detecting cancer, often called screenings, can include imaging tests, lab tests and genetic tests.
  • Cancer treatment trials: Cancer treatment trials test new treatments. Examples of cancer treatment trials include testing new cancer drugs, surgical methods, radiation therapies or combination of treatments.
  • Quality of life trials: These trials study ways to improve comfort and quality of life for cancer patients. Investigators might study drugs to reduce the side effects of cancer treatment or the benefits of nutrition and group therapies.

A therapy only reaches the point where it can be evaluated in a clinical trial after it proves successful in animals and the laboratory. The scientists who run the trials are committed to providing the best available treatment for those individuals who take part in clinical trials. Specific regulations and policies protect the rights, safety, and well-being of those who participate.