Clinical Trials & Cancer Treatment


What do you think when you hear the term “clinical trial”? Experimental treatment? Last resort? Magical cure?

Many people are confused about the meaning of clinical trials. So let’s break it down. What exactly is a clinical trial? And is a clinical trial an option for you?

About Clinical Trials

Clinical trials are research studies that involve volunteers to test new drugs or devices. They’re used to learn whether a treatment is effective and safe for specific illnesses or health conditions. Many clinical trials study new cancer treatments, but they can also be used to explore:

  • The effectiveness or safety of a new drug or combination of drugs

  • A new approach to radiation therapy or surgery

  • A new way to prevent cancer

  • Ways to lower the risk of cancer coming back

Phases of Clinical Trials

It takes a long time for the results of a clinical trial to change the way cancer is treated – and many clinical trials result in no or small changes. Clinical trials are carefully structured into phases and often conducted at more than one institution. The key phases include:

  • Phase I – Designed to prove that a new drug or treatment, which has been shown to be safe for use in animals, may also be given safely to humans.

  • Phase II – Intended to provide more detailed information about the safety of the treatment, in addition to evaluating whether it has a specific effect, such as shrinking a tumor.

  • Phase III – Compares a new treatment that has shown promise in a small number of patients with the results of the current standard of care for that specific disease.

Additional steps and approvals are required before there’s enough evidence to adopt a new treatment. Despite the slow pace of change, clinical trials are essential to cancer research and have resulted in groundbreaking advances.

Is a Clinical Trial Right for Me?

The answer, of course, is it depends. Start by asking your doctor: Should I consider becoming part of a clinical trial? What clinical trials are open to me? Your doctor can provide context to help you understand whether a clinical trial would apply to your specific diagnosis and be of benefit.

All clinical trials have requirements for who can participate. Factors might include age, disease type, medical history and previous treatments. Clinical trials also exclude participants for specific reasons. For example, they may exclude patients with heart disease, not for personal reasons, but to protect them from harm.

If you are eligible for a clinical trial, you still get to decide if you want to move forward. Ask yourself:

  • Why do I want to participate?

  • What results am I hoping for? Is this realistic?

  • What are the risks?

  • How will the clinical trial change my current course of treatment?

  • How will it affect my daily life?

  • How does it stack up against my other options?

There’s no right or wrong answer to these questions. At The Ghosh Center, we’ll provide you with information and help you process all your options. And we’ll always respect your right to control your choices about your health, your life and your future.