Clinical Trials for Cancer Patients

By Ian Krop, MD, PhD

Clinical trials are scientific studies in which new treatments – drugs, diagnostic procedures, and other therapies – are tested in people to find out if they are safe and effective. Nearly all cancer drugs in use today were tested in clinical trials.

If you are a cancer patient, you can benefit from clinical trials on several levels. In addition to the chance that the trial will aid your own treatment, you can also help doctors develop better therapies for current and future patients.

Having a larger care team is another advantage because clinicians, researchers, research coordinators, research nurses, technicians, social workers, support staff, and other health-care professionals work together in planning your care. Studies show that this extra attention can enhance patient outcomes.

Elizabeth Cahn (left) was in a clinical trial for breast cancer, and Karen Schulte, NP, was her research nurse.
Elizabeth Cahn (left) was in a clinical trial for breast cancer, and Karen Schulte, NP, was her research nurse.

While new treatments being evaluated through clinical trials could potentially be better than standard treatments, there are no guarantees. That’s why the new drug is being tested. But, given improvements in technology and a better understanding of cancer at the molecular level, there has been gradual improvement, through clinical trials, in our ability to develop drugs that work more effectively and reduce toxicity.

Because of the sheer number of trials, and the unfamiliar terminology in which they are often described, it can sometimes be difficult for patients to determine which trial might be right for them. You can speak with your oncologist or view some common questions and answers about clinical trials.

Patients with blood cancers such as leukemia or lymphoma now have added opportunities to participate in clinical trials, nationwide. Learn more.

See a list of clinical trials available at Dana-Farber. See a list of clinical trials available to cancer patients nationwide.

4 thoughts on “Clinical Trials for Cancer Patients”

  1. I have prostate cancer that escaped the boundaries of my prostate gland and got into my lymph system. Are there any clinical trials dealing with advanced prostate cancer on the near horizon? If so, I am interested.

    Many thanks,
    Peter M. Dalton

  2. Hi Peter:

    Thanks for the comment. We list all of our Dana-Farber clinical trials on our website. This list is updated regularly, so the information is current:

    This link shows all of our current clinical trials for prostate cancer. Click on the title of any trial to learn more about it. If you have questions about a specific clinical trial, you can contact the person or group listed under the “Contacts” section in the clinical trial’s description page.

    More broadly, the National Cancer Institute has an online database of all clinical trials being conducted throughout the United States:

    I hope that helps and wish you the best!

  3. I really believe that patients should be brave in participating in these trials because it will also help them a lot especially if the trial is successful, and hopefully it is.

  4. An important issue has been brought up here surrounding patient education. All too often are potentially perfect volunteers turned off to the idea of participating in clinical research because of misinformation. Patients need to be properly educated regarding all aspects of clinical research, so as to increase likelihood of participation.

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