Cancer clinical trials are research studies that involve people. These studies test new ways to prevent, detect, diagnose or treat cancers. People who take part in cancer clinical trials help researchers learn more about cancer and help develop improved treatments. The treatments that patients receive today are based on the results of clinical trials done in the past. It is important that men and women of all ages and backgrounds take part in these research studies so that what is learned will help cancer patients now and in the future.
Clinical trials often compare the most accepted cancer treatment (standard treatment) with a new treatment doctors hope will be better.
Each research study has rules about who can and cannot participate – such as age, sex or type of cancer. You should think about asking your doctor if you can take part in a research study. Your doctor and the research staff will explain the clinical trial to you. Clinical trials include only people who choose to take part. Please take your time to make your decision about taking part. You may discuss your decision with your friends and family. You may also discuss it with your health care team. If you have any questions, you can ask your doctor for more explanation about the clinical trials or research study.
Each research study has guidelines that describe the characteristics that all patients in the study must have. These guidelines are called eligibility criteria. Eligibility criteria differ from study to study, depending on the research purpose. Some examples of elibgibility criteria may include age, gender, the type and stage of cancer, and whether cancer patients who have prior cancer treatment or who have other health problems can participate in the study.
An important principle of medical research which helps produce reliable results is determining and following eligibility criteria. During a study, the eligibility criteria help protect patient safety, so that people who are likely to be harmed by study drugs or other treatments are not exposed to the risk. After the study is complete and results are evaluated, they help doctors know which patient groups will benefit if the new treatment being studied is proven to work or be beneficial. For instance, a new treatment may work for one type of cancer but not for another, or it may be more effective for men rather than women.