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Clinical Trials

WHAT ARE CLINICAL TRIALS?

A clinical trial is one of the final stages of a long and careful cancer research process and the main way to make progress in treating cancer. A clinical trial matches cancer patients, doctors, and new therapies aimed at preventing disease, improving chances of cure, increasing life expectancy, and/or improving quality of life.

Doctors perform clinical trials because they believe the drugs or techniques they are testing could be more effective or safer than the standard treatments. They have to show this belief scientifically and beyond a measurable doubt so that the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) will consider approving the drugs/techniques for other people with the same cancers. 

WHY ARE THEY IMPORTANT?

Clinical trials are the only accepted scientific method to determine if a new treatment works better than the current standard of care. Despite the promise offered by clinical trials, less than 5% of adult cancer patients enroll in them. This lack of participation slows progress in the development of new, more effective therapies. By contrast, more than 60% of children with cancer are enrolled in clinical trials. Approximately three-quarters of children with cancer survive their disease long-term, compared with half of adults. The increased survival rate for children can be directly linked to their higher rate of participation in cancer clinical trials.

Nationally, there are close to 5,000 cancer clinical trials underway. Clinical trials are sponsored by the National Cancer Institute (NCI), drug companies, medical institutions, and other research-based organizations. They are carried out in environments that ensure patient safety and care: doctors’ offices, cancer centers, other medical centers, community hospitals and clinics, and veterans’ and military hospitals. All of today’s recognized cancer treatments were proven by cancer clinical trials before they became generally available.

Ask your doctor if there is a clinical trial you should consider as you learn about your treatment options.
A good place to begin looking for information is at www.cancer.gov, the primary website for the National Cancer Institute (NCI), and www.cancer.net, the website for the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO).