Learn About Clinical Trials
Many people think of clinical trials for cancer as a last resort for patients with advanced cancer or those who are not responding to traditional treatments. However, this is a myth. Clinical trials are available for patients with all stages of cancer and can be an effective way to get treatment.
We want to provide you with up-to-date, credible information about clinical trials. Information on this page is from the National Cancer Institute (NCI) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
What are Clinical Trials?
Clinical trials are research studies that involve people. Through clinical trials, doctors find new ways to improve treatments and the quality of life for people with disease.
Researchers design cancer clinical trials to test new ways to:
- Treat cancer
- Find and diagnose cancer
- Prevent cancer
- Manage symptoms of cancer and side effects from its treatment
Clinical trials are the final step in a long process that begins with research in a lab. Before any new treatment is used with people in clinical trials, researchers work for many years to understand its effects on cancer cells in the lab and in animals. They also try to figure out the side effects it may cause.
Any time you or a loved one needs treatment for cancer, clinical trials are an option to think about. 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. To look for trials, see Find NCI-Supported Clinical Trials.
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 protocol includes information about:
- The reason for doing the trial
- Who can join the trial (called “eligibility criteria”)
- How many people are needed for the trial
- Any drugs or other treatments 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
I encourage everyone to learn more about clinical trials and ask your doctor about participation.
When you participate in a clinical trial, you are joining the front line against a disease. This is where treatments are tested and medical science advanced.
It’s where researchers learn what works. Clinical trials are vital to research.
– Brenda Knapp,
wife of kidney cancer patient
Why are Clinical Trials Important?
Today, people are living longer lives from successful cancer treatments that are the results of past clinical trials. Through clinical trials, doctors determine whether new treatments are safe and effective and work better than current treatments. Clinical trials also help us find new ways to prevent and detect cancer. And they help us improve the quality of life for people during and after treatment. When you take part in a clinical trial, you add to our knowledge about cancer and help improve cancer care for future patients. Clinical trials are the key to making progress against cancer.
Why should I join a clinical trial?
Treatments might be new drugs or new combinations of drugs, new surgical procedures or devices, or new ways to use existing treatments.
The goal of clinical trials is to determine if a new test or treatment works and is safe. Clinical trials can also look at other aspects of care, such as improving the quality of life for people with chronic illnesses.
People participate in clinical trials for a variety of reasons. Healthy volunteers say they participate to help others and to contribute to moving science forward. Participants with an illness or disease also participate to help others, but also to possibly receive the newest treatment and to have the additional care and attention from the clinical trial staff.
Clinical trials offer hope for many people and an opportunity to help researchers find better treatments for others in the future.
NCI has trained trial counselors who can help you find potential trials to discuss with your oncologist. There is no charge to you.
Reliable Resources for Cancer Information
NATIONAL CANCER INSTITUTE
INTERNATIONAL KIDNEY CANCER COALITION
CANCER AND CAREERS
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KidneyCAN is a registered 501(c)(3) nonprofit and does not receive any funding through the Congressionally Directed Medical Research Programs (CDMRP) or KCRP (Kidney Cancer Research Program). Our work is funded by grassroots donors in the kidney cancer community.