Cancer research trials are carried out to try to find new and better treatments for cancer. Trials that are carried out on patients are known as clinical trials.
Clinical trials may be carried out to:
test new treatments, such as new chemotherapy drugs, gene therapy or cancer vaccines
look at new combinations of existing treatments, or change the way they are given, in order to make them more effective or to reduce side effects
compare the effectiveness of drugs used to control symptoms
find out how cancer treatments work
see which treatments are the most cost-effective.
Trials are the only reliable way to find out if a different operation, type of chemotherapy, radiotherapy, or other treatment is better than what is already available.
Taking part in a trial
You may be asked to take part in a treatment research trial. There can be many benefits in doing this. Trials help to improve knowledge about cancer and develop new treatments. You will also be carefully monitored during and after the study. Usually, several hospitals around the country take part in these trials. It is important to bear in mind that some treatments that look promising at first are often later found not to be as good as existing treatments, or to have side effects that outweigh the benefits.
Blood and tumour samples
Many blood samples and bone marrow or tumour biopsies may be taken to find out what is wrong with you. Most of these are needed to make the right diagnosis. You may be asked for your permission to use some of your samples for research into cancer. Some samples may be frozen and stored for future use, when new research techniques become available.
The research may be carried out at the hospital where you are treated, or it may be at another hospital. This type of research takes a long time, so you are unlikely to hear the results. The samples will, however, be used to increase knowledge about the causes of cancer and its treatment. This research will, hopefully, improve the outlook for future patients.