Clinical trials test cutting edge approaches for treating or diagnosing cancer. They give scientists important information about the effectiveness of new, unexplored treatments, leading to the development of more promising options for patients.
What is a clinical trial?
Clinical trials are the first point of testing new treatments in humans and the last point of testing treatments prior to FDA approval or disapproval. Prior to clinical trials, experimental methods are tested, generally for years, first in the lab and then on animals. Clinical trials first test these new methods outside the lab in a real-life environment to see if it is safe for humans, then determine if it works as well as or better than the existing approaches.
How do cancer clinical trials differ from other clinical trials?
Cancer trials differ slightly from other clinical trials because cancer trials ensure all participants get either the standard treatment (the already approved or accepted treatment) or the experimental treatment. Placebos are not given in cancer trials.
What are the risks?
Potential risks in a clinical trial include financial risks, potential insurance complications, physical risks and the possibility of unexpected side effects. Before being deterred by cost, keep in mind that the research sponsor generally pays for costs of the experimental drugs and tests that are specific to the study.
Are clinical trials safe?
“Informed consent” protects trial participants by ensuring investigators fully inform their patients about the benefits and risks of participation. The safeguarding procedures of every trial are carefully reviewed by the FDA and the participating cancer center’s Institutional Review Board.
As an experimental drug moves through the clinical trial process, safety, effectiveness and side effects are compared to the standard accepted treatment. Patients are watched closely and if any issues arise, the patient leaves the trial and resumes standard treatment. If a treatment shows negative results for most patients, it is discontinued. If a treatment is benefiting most patients, others in the trial will be switched to that beneficial treatment. Patients can leave the trial at any time for any reason and may resume the standard treatment or explore other clinical trials.
Why is participating in a clinical trial important?
Bottom line: More patients in trials can mean faster development of new and promising options. Patients participating in clinical trials are helping all cancer patients by moving research forward.
Are clinical trials only for people going through treatment?
No, clinical trials can be for prevention, screening, diagnostic, treatment and supportive care. Learn more about the types of clinical trials by visiting this page.
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The Colon Cancer Alliance provides information about clinical trials that may be of interest to colorectal cancer patients and their caregivers for educational purposes only and does not constitute a recommendation or endorsement. We recommend anyone interested in a clinical trial to consult with their medical professionals and fully understand the benefits and risks of participating in a clinical trial.