A clinical trial is a research study that uses people to find new ways to improve health. People volunteer to be in clinical trials. Clinical trials can:
Clinical trials that test new treatments, such as medicines, fall into one of three types. The type of trial depends on its goal and how much testing the treatment has already had. There are three different types of treatment trials:
It depends on the trial. Some trials (usually phase II or III trials) use only people with certain diseases or conditions, or whose family members have certain diseases or conditions. Other trials use people who are healthy instead of people with a certain disease or condition.
Not everyone who wants to be in a trial can be in one. To be in a trial, you need to meet certain conditions. Often, you need to have the disease or problem being studied. Other conditions usually have to do with the health of your heart, liver, kidneys or other organs. To see if you meet the conditions, you might need to answer questions or have an exam or tests.
People can benefit in different ways. People who have the disease being studied can benefit by:
Healthy volunteers can benefit from being in clinical trials, too, by:
There are a few potential downsides of being in a clinical trial. The new treatment can have unknown or unexpected side effects. In addition, the new treatment might not work as well as the current treatment, or it might not work at all.
Another downside is that you might not get the new treatment. Some studies (such as phase III trials) compare a new treatment with the "usual" treatment for a disease. Other studies compare a new treatment with a "placebo" (sugar pill). A placebo is a treatment that looks the same as medicine and is given the same way, but doesn't have any medicine in it. A placebo is used only if doctors aren't sure that the usual treatment helps or if there isn't any good treatment for that disease or condition.
In general, in studies that compare two treatments, half of the people get the new treatment, and the other half get the usual treatment or placebo. Neither you nor your doctor can choose which treatment you get. In many cases, you won't know which treatment you got until the trial is over.
You should know that:
To search for clinical trials in the United States and worldwide, check the National Institutes of Health (NIH) website. If you have cancer, you can search for clinical trials on the National Cancer Institute website. Also, the American Society of Clinical Oncology has some videos answering common questions about clinical trials.
Here at Springfield Clinic, we have a research team committed to the most up-to-date oncology clinical trials to serve our patients. If you are an eligible candidate or are interested in discussing this possibility given your diagnosis, please let your physician’s office know.
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