Clinical trials are a type of research study that test new medical approaches. For cancer patients, participation in a clinical trial may result in an improved chance for survival or a better quality of life. Patients who volunteer to be a part of a clinical trial are often the first to benefit from exciting, new research breakthroughs, but as with any new medicine or therapy, there may also be risks. The specialists at the Jefferson Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center (SKCC) medical team can advise you about the pros and cons, your eligibility and if one of our available trials might benefit you, depending on your type or stage of cancer.
Clinical Trial Types
Clinical trials are the best way physicians have to translate scientific developments into treatments. Each type of clinical trial has a specific purpose:
- Screening Trials – Study better ways to test for and detect cancer
- Prevention Trials – Test methods for reducing the risk of cancer in people who have never had it or for preventing cancer from recurring in patients who have had cancer before
- Diagnostic Trials – Study procedures or tests for diagnosing specific types of cancers
- Therapeutic Trials –Look for new medicines, therapies and methods for treating cancer.
- Quality of Life Trials – Explore ways to improve comfort and quality of life for cancer patients
Clinical Trial Phases
Most therapeutic research involving the testing of new drugs is conducted in highly regulated phases that study dosage, safety, efficacy and long-term side effects:
- Phase I Trials – Evaluate how a new drug should be given, e.g. orally or intravenously; usually on a small number of patients.
- Phase II Trials – Test drug safety and how well the new drug works; usually focusing on a particular type of cancer.
- Phase III Trials –Test new drugs or surgical procedures in comparison to the current standard; often including a large number of patients who are assigned to either the standard or new group.
- Phase IV Trials – Evaluate side effects, risks and benefits of a drug over a longer period of time; usually a larger number of people than in Phase III.
Clinical Trial Benefits
Clinical trials offer hope for many cancer patients. In addition to gaining access to new treatments that are not yet available to the general public, you help future generations by contributing to medical research. Your participation may provide access to innovative medicines, treatments or supportive therapies at low or no cost, too. Although clinical trials offer no guarantees, physicians have a strong belief that the study drug or cancer treatment will provide benefits equal to or better than the current standard therapies.
Is Participation in a SKCC Cancer Clinical Trial Right for You?
There’s no doubt that volunteering to take part in a cancer clinical trial is a big decision for you, your family and your caregivers. You undoubtedly will have many questions ranging from what rights and protections you have what costs are covered by insurance, to how long will the trial last. Rest assured, the SKCC Clinical Research Organization office can answer your questions and help you navigate through your options.