Clinical trials contribute to knowledge and progress against cancer. If a new treatment proves effective in a study, it may become a new standard treatment that can help many patients. Trials may also answer important scientific questions and suggest future research directions. Because of progress made through clinical trials, many people treated for cancer are now living longer.
Clinical trials test experimental agents; they can also compare different combinations of approved drugs, or different approaches for giving therapy. In the past, clinical trials were sometimes seen as a last resort for people who had no other treatment choices. Today, patients with common cancers often choose to participate in a clinical trial during their first round of treatment.
Patients who join a clinical trial join a research team with the goal of fighting cancer. They work with a well-qualified group of health care professionals that may include doctors, nurses, social workers, dieticians and patient advocates. Depending on the type of trial, they may receive care at a large cancer center, a university hospital, a local medical center or a physician’s office.