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Types of Cancer Clinical Trials

There are many different types of clinical trials, each with a specific purpose.

Treatment trials

These are studies done on people who actually have cancer. They are designed in phases to answer questions about effectiveness, or to test a new treatment or a new way of using an older treatment. These studies might involve new drugs, vaccines, surgical methods, or radiation methods, or combinations of these treatments.

Prevention trials

These studies look at ways to reduce the risk of getting cancer. These studies are usually for people who do not have cancer at the time of the study, but they can also be done on cancer survivors to study how to reduce the risk of recurrence or developing another cancer. These studies will often require lifestyle changes like modification to your diet, activity level or vitamin supplementation.

Screening trials

These studies look at better ways to detect cancer in its earliest stages, when it is most treatable. These studies are done on people with no symptoms of cancer at the time they enroll in the study.

Diagnostic trials

These studies look at tests that might be used to identify cancer more accurately and at an earlier stage, and are usually done with people who have no symptoms of the disease.

Quality of life trials (also called supportive care trials)

These studies test ways to improve comfort or life quality of cancer patients, survivors and caregivers. They may involve studying ways to reduce the side effects of treatment, long-term side effects or how to improve the day-to-day quality of life after cancer.

Genetics studies

Genetic studies are sometimes part of another study. These studies focus on how your genetic makeup can affect behavior, diagnosis or response to treatment, or how genetics impact detection, screening recommendations and side effects.

Behavioral studies

These studies look at changing and improving behaviors that reduce the risks of cancer or cancer recurrence. They also address how to improve coping skills or quality of life and possibly to reduce treatment side effects. Behavioral studies often look at screening behavior, physical activity, diet, tobacco use, sun exposure, etc., and can be focused on cancer prevention, early detection, treatment and/or survivorship.

Population or epidemiological studies

In these studies researchers look at tissue or blood samples from families or large groups of people to find genetic or other biological differences that are associated with cancer. Individuals with or without cancer may participate. The goal of these studies is to gain an understanding of the patterns, causes and control of cancer in the groups being studied.

Translational research

These studies are focused on evaluating a specific individual’s tumor characteristics and then developing customized treatment based upon the unique attributes of that person’s cancer. The goal is to translate what is learned in the pathology lab into real treatment for a patient in the shortest possible time period.