Clinical trials are controlled tests conducted to evaluate if new treatments are more effective than those currently available. Sometimes, treatments evaluated in clinical trials are proved to be even more beneficial than existing treatment. In this case, the treatment is adopted as the new standard to be used by doctors and patients. Clinical trials are especially important in the fight against cancer.
The following are some frequently asked questions and answers on trials with links to free resources to help match you with the right study.
Why are Clinical Trials So Important?
Clinical trials are the key to making progress in the fight against cancer. Many people diagnosed with cancer go on to lead long, healthy lives post treatment. Successful treatment is a product of past clinical trials. Clinical trials help doctors decide if a new treatment is effective, safe, and works better than existing therapies. Trials help us discover new and more effective ways of preventing, detecting, and treating cancer. Ultimately, this effort helps doctors improve the quality of cancer patient during treatment and even after the treatment. So, when someone participates in clinical trials, he or she is adding to the knowledge base with the outcome being improving treatment outcomes for future patients.
What are the Different Types of Clinical Trials?
Clinical trials are carefully designed and monitored to withstand critical scientific scrutiny to prove that the new method being studied is truly the one responsible for the result and it did not just happen by chance or influenced by other factors. They can be randomized, blinded, or double-blind. Let’s take a look at each of these:
#1: Randomized clinical trials
In a randomized clinical trial, a large number of patients with the same disease are assigned via computer to two groups: one receives the existing, standard treatment, the other received the new treatment. Treating patients with the same disease in this trial is used to demonstrate that a group of similar patients either did better or worse and thus helps to affirm if the new treatment is the only thing that made the difference in people that were treated with it.
#2: Blinded clinical trials
In this trial, patients are not only randomly assigned a treatment group, they are also unaware of which group (and which treatment) they receive. This is done to rule out the placebo effect, which is the ability of some patients to perform and respond better to treatments on complex motivational and psychological factors. Many patients will respond better to the treatment is they know they are been given the new treatment rather than the existing one.
#3: Double-blinded trials
In this trial, neither the patient nor the medical staff is aware of which patient receives the new treatment and which the existing, standard treatment. The double-blinded study is done in order to completely eliminate the possibility that subtle factors like psychology, motivation, and mood on the part of the staff might be sensed by the patient, which, therefore, could affect the result gotten from testing the new treatment.
How Safe are Clinical Trials?
The decision of taking part in clinical trials could bring safety questions to your mind like if there are any risks attached to the process, who watches out in case of any problems, and who ensures participants’ safety. Actually, the safety of participants is vital to the success of any trial, and so great importance is placed on it. There are federal rules set in place to make sure participants are safe. You will be protected through:
- The informed consent process
- Careful review and approval of the clinical trial protocol by scientific experts and the IRB (Institutional Review Board)
- Ongoing monitoring of the trial by: the IRB, the body sponsoring the trial, the research team, and the Data and Safety Monitoring Boards (DSMB)
Of course, every trial is different and each person’s health and risks are unique. Any questions concerning safety or the suitability of any trial should be discusses in-depth with the patient’s care team.
What are Some of the Advantages of Participating in a Clinical Trial?
Here are a few advantages following your involvement in the process:
- Access to new treatment during and after the trial is possible for you – even before such is made available to the general public
- You may obtain medical care free of charge
- You will enjoy close monitoring for possible side effects
- You are helping other fellow human beings by contributing your own quota to the advancement of medicine and healthcare
In addition, you may be reimbursed for every reasonable expense including travel expenses, food, and medical expenses. Although clinical trials should not be seen as a means for of making additional income, there may be a certain compensation that follows the process.
Where Can I Find Oncology Trials?
Clinical trials are found most often at the NCI-designated Comprehensive Cancer Centers and Clinical Cancer Centers, and at other university medical hospitals that receive federal funding and cooperate with NCI on clinical trials. Your community oncologist may participate through association with NCI’s community clinical oncology programs.
Where to Find Trials:
For detailed information and search tip for US Library of Medicine and NCI-Supported trials, please see our article Locate a Clinical Trial to access to hundreds of thousands of clinical trials that are quickly narrowed based on a variety of search criteria including disease type, location, keyword, hospital affiliation and more.