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Researchers all over the world are looking for new and better ways to prevent, detect, diagnose, and treat cancer. They are learning more about what causes cancer. They are conducting many types of clinical trials.
A clinical trial is one of the final stages of a long and careful research process. The search for new treatments begins in the lab. If an approach seems promising in the lab, the next step is to see how the treatment affects cancer in animals and whether it has harmful effects. Of course, treatments that work well in the lab or in animals do not always work well in people. Clinical trials are needed to find out whether new approaches to cancer prevention, detection, diagnosis, and treatment are safe and effective.
Clinical trials contribute to knowledge and progress against cancer. Research already has led to many advances, and scientists continue to search for more effective approaches. Because of progress made through clinical trials, many people treated for cancer are living longer. Many of these cancer survivors also have a better quality of life compared to survivors in the past.
There are several types of clinical trials:
People who join clinical trials may be among the first to benefit if a new approach turns out to be effective. And even if participants do not benefit directly, they still make an important contribution by helping doctors learn more about cancer and how to prevent, detect, and control it. Although clinical trials may pose some risks, researchers do all they can to protect their patients.
People who are interested in being part of a clinical trial should talk with their doctor. They may want to read the NCI booklet Taking Part in Cancer Treatment Research Studies. It explains how clinical trials are carried out and explains their possible benefits and risks.
At www.cancer.gov, NCI provides general information about clinical trials as well as detailed information about specific ongoing trials. Information Specialists at 1-800-4-CANCER and at LiveHelp (www.cancer.gov) can answer questions and provide information about clinical trials.
Intro/What You Need to Know About Cancer