Jefferson University Hospitals

What Are Clinical Trials?

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A clinical trial is a study that helps doctors and researchers potentially find better ways to prevent, diagnose, or treat cancer. Depending on the goals of the trial, there are several different types:

  • Prevention Trials look for improved ways to reduce the risk of cancer in people who have never had it or to prevent cancer from recurring
  • Screening Trials test the best way to detect cancer
  • Diagnostic  Trials are conducted to find better tests or procedures for diagnosing a particular cancer
  • Therapeutic Trials look at new ways to treat cancer such as:
    • The effects of a new medicine, surgery or radiation treatment
    • New combinations of existing medicines or therapies
    • New treatment sequences (the order in which medicines or other treatments are given)
    • New dosing schedules or the way the dose is given (by injection or mouth)
    • Entirely new methods to deliver treatment, such as gene therapy or vaccines
  • Quality of Life Trials explore ways to improve comfort and the quality of life for people with cancer.

Am I Eligible For A Clinical Trial?

In planning a clinical trial, researchers decide on the eligibility criteria - the characteristics of the people they would like to study. These characteristics generally include how young or old a person must be to join, what type and stage of cancer that person has, what previous treatments have they undergone, and other medical problems the person may have.

What Rights And Protections Do I Have In A Clinical Trial?

Clinical trials are reviewed at a national level and again locally. Each hospital or cancer center has an Institutional Review Board (IRB). It is the job of the IRB to review clinical trials and make sure they are run in a safe and fair manner. Our IRB has many different members, including doctors, nurses, patient advocates, patients and people from the community.

Before you join a clinical trial, a healthcare provider or another qualified professional will explain what the trial is for and what will happen. You can ask any questions you have about the trial. You will also be given a consent form to sign. The consent form gives you:

  • Detailed information about the clinical trial;
  • What to expect during the trial;
  • The expected end date of the trial; and
  • The possible side effects from the treatment and more

Not taking part in a clinical trial is your choice. Clinical trials are voluntary. It is a good idea to look at all of the treatment options available with with your doctor, other healthcare team members and your family. This will help you decide if participating in a clinical trial is good for you.