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What Are Clinical Trials?

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Health professionals, people with cancer and their loved ones discuss what clinical trials are, why they are important, and how your safety is protected.

Clinical trials are research studies that involve people. They are the final step in a long process that begins with research in a lab. Most treatments we use today are the results of past clinical trials.

Cancer clinical trials are designed to test new ways to:

  • Treat cancer
  • Find and diagnose cancer
  • Prevent cancer
  • Manage symptoms of cancer or side effects from its treatment

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.

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 requirements”)
  • How many people are needed for the trial
  • Any drugs 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

Why Are Clinical Trials Important?

Clinical trials are key to developing new methods to prevent, detect, and treat cancer. It is through clinical trials that researchers can determine whether new treatments are safe and effective and work better than current treatments. When you take part in a clinical trial, you add to our knowledge about cancer and help improve cancer care.

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