Are Cancer Clinical Trials Right for You?

August 11, 2021
Are Cancer Clinical Trials Right for You?

Reviewed for Medical Accuracy by Ashlea Chandler

Cancer is always a frightening experience. Many patients desire ways to be proactive in this battle. Taking part in clinical trials can provide a sense of comfort and hope, which can be vital tools in the fight against cancer. Such trials come with a lot of questions.  Do clinical trials for cancer work? What should you consider before taking part in a clinical trial? What are the risks and rewards involved? We’ll provide a quick guide here so you understand the options available.

What Are Cancer Clinical Trials?

So what is a clinical trial for cancer? Clinical trials are, in simplest terms, research studies that involve real people. In the field of medicine, they are important ways for doctors to test new methods of treatment. But do clinical trials work for cancer? Successful clinical trials for cancer can create new treatments for cancer, as well as preventative methods and ways to better diagnose it. 

Eligibility for cancer clinical trials is extensive and dependent on the study. It is untrue that only those in later or more severe stages are allowed to take part. Trials need information on patients with all variants of cancer at various stages. Trials could be experimenting with different cancer treatments, ways to detect it, or ways to mitigate its symptoms. Every trial has a unique ending to an ongoing experiment.

What Kinds of Cancer Clinical Trials Are There?

Before you sign up for a cancer clinical trial, it’s vital to understand the kind of trial it is. The following represent the main trials cancer patients can get involved in: 

Prevention Trials: Prevention trials generally do not involve patients with cancer, but often involve those with a high risk. Prevention trial patients make life changes (such as in diet or exercise) or take certain medication or supplements. The doctors want to see if these methods are side-effect-free ways of reducing the risks of cancer. 

Screening Trials: Screening trials are also designed for those without active cancer. Their purpose is to test methods of detecting cancer early. The goal is to find which screening tests can be most effective. The earlier that cancer can be detected, the better the chance of treatment. 

History Trials: Similar to Screening Trials, History Trials follow people with cancer, or who are at risk of cancer, over a long period of time. The family history of the subject is also closely examined. These trials are designed to try and track the progression of cancer, starting all the way at family genetics. The hope is that by understanding the progression of cancer, new treatments can be developed. 

Treatment Trials: Treatment trials involve testing new drugs and surgeries, including new radiation therapy methods, on patients with cancer. These trials are designed to help see how these treatments will work on patients. These kinds of trials are “high risk, high reward” - they could be a breakthrough in cancer treatment but may have severe side effects. 

Care Trials: Care trials involve the testing of new methods to help treat the side effects of cancer. These could include drugs and treatments to deal with pain, nausea, infections, and depression. These trials are focused on trying to improve the quality of life for those with cancer, as well as their families.

What are the Benefits of Clinical Trials?

The benefit that most cancer patients are looking for is access to a new treatment that is not available yet to the wider public and is safer or more effective than other options. Knowing that there are more options available is always a comfort. This also gives the patient the feeling that they are making key choices in their treatment. 

Many join up to clinical trials to enhance the effectiveness of their medical treatment in general. Many (not all) clinical trials will offer payment of portions of the patient’s medical fees. A cancer patient who is undergoing a trial may also get more chances to interact with a cancer care team for monitoring. 

Taking part in these trials can also have charitable motivation. By participating in trials, a patient is helping advance medical science. Even if a trial doesn’t provide immediate benefits for a patient, it can help give information that could save lives in the future.

Potential Risks of Clinical Trials

Just as there are benefits to clinical trials there are also risks to be aware of. Since the treatments are new, they may have unknown and potentially severe side effects that have not yet been detected. By the same token, they may not have any effect, which can be a disheartening experience. If you are taking a randomized clinical trial, you may not even get a choice in the sort of trial you are taking part in. 

While clinical trials do ensure more attention, they will also require more time and travel. If you are already finding transportation difficult as a cancer patient, this may compound the issue. You must also be very careful in examining the costs of clinical trials and asking questions. There may be some costs that your insurer will not be able to cover.

How Can I Find Clinical Trials For Cancer?

The best way to find clinical trials for experimental cancer treatment is to talk to your doctor or other medical professionals. They may have information on any trials being run at your hospital or in your region. 

Another method to find clinical trials is to search for trials on the websites of pharmaceutical companies. These businesses often operate clinical trials to test new drugs and pharmaceutical treatments. A good starting place for this is Pfizer, one of our partners, who operates clinical trials across the United States and the National Institute of Health.

Another partner of ours is Tempus, who matches cancer patients with clinical trials. They match an astonishing 350,000+ cancer patients with a clinical trial every single year. They are a fantastic resource when it comes to searching for a clinical trial.

Regardless of the type of cancer you’re suffering from, or the stage, there are clinical trial options available for you to explore.

Learn More About Clinical Trials for Cancer

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