Clinical trials are carefully designed and regulated research studies to test whether a new approach is better than the treatment currently being used and can include:
- Testing new treatments, e.g. new drugs or ways of giving treatment
- Examining new combinations of treatments, or when / how they are given
- Looking at the beneficial effects of different treatments and therapies, such as psychological or complementary therapy
- Discovering which treatments cause which side-effects, and how these can be managed
- Investigating the convenience of different treatments (eg oral tablets versus intravenous injections)
- Studying whether treatment (for example, chemotherapy) is more effective before or after surgery.
There are a number of reasons why you may wish to take part in a clinical trial. These include:
- Access to new treatments before they become widely available
- Contributing to medical knowledge and the research of cancer
- The potential to be the first to benefit from new methods of treating cancer
- Receiving healthcare provided by leading clinicians in the field of cancer research
- Close monitoring of your health during the trial.
If you wish to do so, discuss the trial with friends, family and your specialist team. It is important that you know that you can leave the trial at any time, without giving a reason, but if you have doubts about whether or not to take part, it may be better to discuss these with the research nurse in more detail at the start. If you are receiving a new treatment as part of the trial, you may not be able to continue to have this treatment if you leave the trial. Some trials are "blind", in which case you will not have any control over which treatment you are allocated - meaning that you may not receive the new treatment being tested.
Some people are invited to take part in a clinical trial by the medical team treating them, whilst others actively seek to enter a clinical trial to potentially get access to treatment that is not currently available on the NHS. It is important that you have access to information on clinical trials to help you make an informed decision about whether or not you wish to take part.