Cancer clinical studies are research studies that test how well new medical treatments work in people.  Every advance in cancer treatment in recent years has come out of a clinical study.
Most people who take part in clinical trials do so for personal reasons.  They may want a chance to feel better or to live longer since it may involve access to the newest treatment options.  Other participants feel satisfied from knowing they may be helping others with cancer, both now and in the future.
Types of trials
Different studies have different purposes. Some of the different types of studies are:
  • Prevention trials test new approaches that doctors believe may lower the risk of developing a certain type of cancer.  Most prevention trials are conducted with healthy people who have not had cancer.  Some trials are conducted with people who have had cancer and want to prevent the return of cancer.
  • Screening trials study ways to detect cancer earlier.  They are often conducted to determine how finding cancer before it causes symptoms impacts cancer survival.  These trials involve people who do not have any symptoms of cancer.
  • Diagnostic trials study tests or procedures that could be used to identify cancer more accurately.  Diagnostic trials usually include people who have signs or symptoms of cancer.
  • Treatment trials are conducted with people who have cancer.  They are designed to answer specific questions about the effectiveness of new treatments or a new way of using a standard treatment. 
  • Quality-of-life (also called supportive care) trials explore ways to improve the comfort and quality of life of cancer patients and cancer survivors.  These trials may study ways to help people who are experiencing side effects from their cancer or its treatment.
  • Genetics studies are sometimes part of another cancer clinical trial.  The genetics component of the trial may focus on how your genes affect the detection,diagnosis, or response to cancer treatment.  People who participate in genetics studies may or may not have cancer, depending on the study.
What to Expect
Your experience in a clinical cancer study will depend on the type of study you enroll in and the type of cancer that you have.
Participating in a cancer clinical study may be as simple as agreeing to let researchers have a copy of your medical records or results of a test that you have had as part of your treatment.
Other studies are more involved and may require more tests and visits to the clinic than a standard treatment regimen requires.
Trial locations
Clinical trials take place across the country including our area of Virginia.  Some trials may involve hundreds of locations such as doctor's offices or local hospitals across the country at the same time. There are other trials that would require you to travel to one of a few highly specialized centers.  You'll want to take travel requirements into account when deciding on whether to participate in a specific trial. You may find trails that take place in
  • A local doctor's office.
  • Cancer centers.
  • Medical centers.
  • Community hospitals and clinics.
  • Veterans and military hospitals.
Clinical trial safety
Research studies are conducted according to strict scientific and ethical principles.  Every clinical trial has a protocol, or action plan, which acts like a "recipe" for conducting the trial.  The plan describes what will be done in the study, how it will be conducted, and why each part of the study is necessary.  The same protocol is used by every doctor or research center taking part in the trial.
There are also protocols regarding patient data monitoring and when to call off a study because of safety or effectiveness concerns.  If you have concerns, ask about the safety and data monitoring before participating in a trial.  Most studies are required to meet the highest standards no matter who sponsors them.
Qualifying for a study
Each study's protocol has guidelines or eligibility criteria for who can or cannot participate in the study.  The criteria differ from study to study.  They may include age, gender, medical history, and current health status.  Eligibility criteria for treatment studies often require that you have a particular type and stage of cancer. Enrolling participants with similar characteristics helps to ensure that the results of the trial will achieve meaningful results.
Insurance for treatments in a clinical trial
There are several types of medical costs associated with a clinical trial.  Depending on your insurance and the type of study, not all of your medical costs may be covered.
In some instances, when provided with more details about the study, insurance companies will provide coverage of extra care costs. The Riverside Cancer Care Center can guide you in determining your coverage.
Routine care costs are the costs of treating the cancer with standard, approved therapies.  You would have these costs whether or not you were in the study.  These costs are often covered by health insurance.
Extra care costs are those related to taking part in a clinical trial and are not part of your routine or standard care. Your study may not involve extra care costs at all, but if they do, these expenses may not be covered by your health insurance.
Research costs are those related to conducting the trial such as the time of the research doctors and staff and clinical test performed purely for research purposes. These costs are often covered by the organization sponsoring the trial.
Sponsorship of trials
Various agencies and organizations sponsor clinical cancer trials:
  • National Institutes of Health (NIH)
  • National Cancer Institute, a government agency of the NIH, sponsors trials across the nation to make them widely available.
  • Department of Defense.
  • Department of Veterans Affairs.
  • Medical institutions.
  • Individual physicians.
  • Foundations and volunteer groups.
  • Drug companies.
Riverside support
Before deciding whether a clinical trial is an option for you or someone you care about, it's important to learn all you can.  You'll want to have details about:
  • Purpose of the study.
  • What is involved in the study in terms of your time and/or travel.
  • Tests and other procedures that will be used.
  • Possible risks and benefits.
  • Safety monitoring and protocols
  • Insurance coverage for the study and its treatments.
The Riverside Cancer Care Center can help you to research and to explore your clinical trial options both locally and regionally. If you decide that a trial is right for you, we'll help you to apply and to enroll in a study. Contact the Cancer Care Center at 800-520-7006.