Clinical trials are a key part of medical science’s effort to improve treatments for cancer patients. There are a variety of different types of trials, including therapeutic clinical trials, which test the safety and effectiveness of potential new agents in patients. Some patients participate in several therapeutic clinical trials, in succession, over the course of their treatment.
As a general rule, patients can enroll in only one therapeutic clinical trial at a time, says Bruce Johnson, MD, Dana-Farber’s chief clinical research officer. This is because trials are designed to focus on a specific therapy or treatment regimen. Participation in multiple trials would make it difficult for researchers to identify the risks and benefits of each therapy on its own.
Patients may, however, participate in a tumor-banking trial at the same time that they’re taking part in a trial of a new therapy. A tumor-banking trials involves collecting and storing tumor tissue for later analysis. Such analysis may help determine which tumors are most likely to respond to particular drugs, for example, or which tumors are at greatest risk of metastasizing.
In some cases, patients can participate simultaneously in a therapeutic trial and a lifestyle intervention trial, which studies the effect of changes in diet or exercise. It is important to speak with your doctor and care team about clinical trials you qualify for, and whether you can participate in more than one at a time.
Want to learn more? Hear from cancer patients who have participated in clinical trials: