WHAT ARE CLINICAL TRIALS?
Clinical trials are medical research trials involving patients that are carried out to try and find new and better treatments. They are carried out in all areas of medicine, not just in cancer, and not just to test treatment. For example, a clinical trial might be used to compare different ways of diagnosing an illness. Or it might test techniques for preventing a particular cancer. Some trials also include a study of the psychological and financial effects of the treatment, both on patients and their caretakers (for example, whether someone has to take time off work to look after you).
At the present time about 1 in 25 cancer patients take part in clinical trials. If more patients were involved in clinical trials, cancer research would be able to move forward more quickly. Trials are more commonly used with some cancers than with others. Clinical trials are most commonly used to try out new forms of treatment such as surgery, radiotherapy or chemotherapy, to control symptoms such as pain and sickness, or to test the effectiveness of psychological therapy. The treatment being tested may be aimed at improving survival, relieving symptoms of the cancer or side effects of treatment, or improving the quality of life or sense of well-being for people with cancer.
Many drugs which have been tested in clinical trials are now in common use, such as tamoxifen in breast cancer and cisplatin for testicular cancer.