Clinical trials, also called cancer treatment or research studies, test new treatments and therapies in people with cancer. The goal of these trials is to find better ways to therapies and treatments for cancer. Clinical trials in general, seek to answer specific scientific questions to find better ways to prevent, detect, and treat diseases as well as to improve overall care for people with disease. Clinical trials may test many types of treatment such as new drugs, new approaches to surgery or radiation therapy, new combinations of treatments, or new methods such as gene therapy. The search for new treatments begins in the laboratory, where scientists first develop and test new ideas. If an approach seems promising, the next step may be testing a treatment in animals to see how it affects a particular cancer in a living being and whether it has harmful effects. Many different mammals are used in this type of research, from rats to monkeys. One of the most common models for oral cancer is the hamster cheek pouch model. Of course, treatments that work well in the lab or in animals do not always work well in people. Once a particular treatment modality proves effective in an animal model, it may then progress to human clinical trials. In these trials researchers will find out whether promising treatments are as safe and effective as they were in the animal studies.

Types of Clinical Trials

There are several different types of cancer clinical trials. Each type of trial is designed to answer different research questions:

Prevention trials:

What approaches can prevent a specific type of cancer from developing in people who have not previously had cancer?

Early-detection/screening trials:

What are new ways of finding cancer in people before they have any symptoms?

Diagnostic trials:

How can new tests or procedures identify a suspected cancer earlier or more accurately?

Genetics trials:

Can gene-transfer therapy be used to treat cancer?

Treatment trials:

What new treatment approaches can help people who have cancer?
What is the most effective treatment for people who have cancer?

Quality-of life and supportive care trials:

What kinds of interventions can improve the comfort and quality of life of people who have cancer?

What Happens in a Clinical Trial?

In a clinical trial, patients receive treatments which are new and innovative, though not completely proven to work or be risk free. Doctors carry out research on how the treatment affects the patients, and whether the desired results occur. While clinical trials have risks for the people who participate, each study also takes steps to protect patients.

What Is It Like To Receive Treatment in a Clinical Trial?

When you take part in a clinical trial, you receive your treatment in a cancer center, hospital, clinic, and/or doctor’s office, which has qualified to become part of the study. These doctors and institutions have had to submit a rigorous protocol for approval before they may participate in a clinical trial. Doctors, nurses, social workers, and other health professionals may be part of your treatment team. They will follow your progress closely. You may have more tests and doctor visits than you would if you were not taking part in a study. You will follow a treatment plan your doctor prescribes, and you may also have other responsibilities such as keeping a log or filling out forms about your health. Many studies continue to check on patients even after their treatment is over, and it is not uncommon to have mandatory follow-up visits well after treatment has stopped. With a new therapy or treatment, it may be some time before complete understanding of the effects are completely understood.

How Is the Research Carried Out?

In clinical trials, both research concerns and patient w