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Content provided by Virginia Oncology Associates
What Are Clinical Trials?
Clinical trials are research studies performed in people that aim to find out if a new treatment, like a drug or medical device, is safe and effective to use. Clinical trials are a primary way of improving the current standard of care followed by medical providers, according to Dr. Michael A. Danso, Medical Director and Research Director with Virginia Oncology Associates. “All standards of care of today were a clinical trial yesterday – what we do today creates the treatments of tomorrow.”
Clinical trials are categorized in one of four different phases. Most new cancer treatments will typically go through Phases I, II and III. Not all therapies have a Phase IV clinical trial because this phase is not always necessary. “In these phases we are looking to discover first, is this treatment safe? And then, is it a better standard of care? These are the questions we look to answer,” Dr. Danso explains.
PLACEBOS. Many patients ask if there’s a chance that they will be given an inactive treatment, called a placebo. The use of placebos in cancer clinical trials is rare, but it does happen. In most trials, participants are either given the new treatment or they are given an existing treatment already approved to treat their cancer.
Participating in Clinical Trials
Today, clinical trial research is no longer conducted just at large university cancer centers or major hospitals, so more patients have easier access if they would like to participate in one without the need to travel as far.
Participating in clinical trials allows patients to access state-of-the-art investigational therapies while their own physician directs and closely monitors their care, so patients can remain at home near friends and family.
Cancer clinical trials are not just for patients who have stage IV, metastatic disease, according to Dr. Danso. “These studies can benefit all patients with cancer. With some therapies approved originally for stage IV, investigations may find that these are effective in an earlier stage. Often this improves patient outcome and survival.”
Clinical trials are available in most quality hospital systems, Dr. Danso says, so asking your provider is a good place to start to find out what is available; or visit the National Cancer Institute’s website to see all the currently enrolling trials.
LEARN MORE. Visit the National Cancer Institute’s website at cancer.gov/about-cancer/treatment/clinical-trials or visit virginiacancer.com/clinical-trials-research to learn more about clinical trials.