What is a Clinical Trial?

Clinical trials are research studies in which people help doctors find ways to improve health and cancer care. Each study tries to answer scientific questions and to find better ways to prevent, diagnose, or treat cancer.

Why are there clinical trials?

A clinical trial is one of the final stages of a long and careful cancer research process. Studies are done with cancer patients to find out whether promising approaches to cancer prevention, diagnosis, and treatment are safe and effective. Many treatments used today are the result of past clinical trials.

What are the different types of clinical trials?

  • Treatment trials test new treatments (like a new cancer drug, new approaches to surgery or radiation therapy, new combinations of treatments, or new methods such as gene therapy).
  • Prevention trials test new approaches, such as medicines, vitamins, minerals, or other supplements that doctors believe may lower the risk of a certain type of cancer. These trials look for the best way to prevent cancer in people who have never had cancer or to prevent cancer from coming back or a new cancer occurring in people who have already had cancer.
  • Screening trials test the best way to find cancer, especially in its early stages.
  • Quality of Life trials (also called Supportive Care trials) explore ways to manage symptoms and treatments and to improve your comfort and quality of life.

Source:  National Cancer Institute Reviewed 7/07 and 4/08