What is a clinical trial?
Clinical trials test new drugs, new approaches to surgery and radiation, new combinations of treatments, and new methods such as gene therapy. Clinical trials contribute to scientific discoveries, potentially leading to better ways to prevent, detect, and treat cancers.
Depending on your specific condition, a clinical trial may be one of your treatment options. Participation is entirely voluntary, and you have the right to withdraw at any time for any reason. Ask your physician whether any clinical trials are available that are right for you.
When your oncologist suggests participating in a clinical trial, you’ll be put in touch with our Clinical Trials Coordinator. She’ll provide you with more information and ask you to sign a consent form. You’ll be informed about all potential side effects. After that, you’ll begin a treatment routine much like any other. Depending on the form of cancer you have, you may receive intravenous infusion treatments, pills or radiation therapy.
The trial will last a few months or as long as a year. During this time, the Clinical Trials Coordinator will call you frequently to check on your progress and any negative side effects. You may be asked to keep a diary of your medical condition and how you’re reacting to treatment.
If you report serious side effects, we may adjust your dosage. If the risks and side effects outweigh the drug’s potential benefit to you, we’ll remove you from the study.
The Clinical Trials Coordinator will follow up with you after the trial ends. She’ll check in you from time to time for several years, tracking the long-term effects of the treatment you helped test. Some former patients come to think of the Clinical Trials Coordinator as an old friend.
What are the benefits of participating in a clinical trial?
- You will receive expert medical care.
- Your health will be watched closely throughout the study.
- In some types of trials, you may be among the first to benefit from a new treatment or new knowledge about a current treatment.
- You will help others by advancing medical and scientific knowledge.
What are the risks?
- Because the treatment is experimental, there’s no guarantee it will be more effective than standard treatment. The researchers hope it will be, but they need to do the study to find out.
- The experimental treatment may have unpleasant side effects.
- You may be assigned to the control group. If that happens, you’ll still receive the normal care for your specific cancer, instead of the experimental treatment. A control group is a crucial part of research, providing a base line to measure the new treatment’s effectiveness. Participating in a control group is an important contribution to medical science.
- Like any cancer treatment, the experimental treatment may not work for everyone.
- Participation may require more tests and more visits or treatments than regular care.
Who approves clinical trials at BAH?
Every clinical trial at Bay Area Hospital is reviewed and approved by our Institutional Review Board (IRB). This board consists of physicians, nurses, local clergy, and ordinary citizens.
The IRB assures that the rights, safety, and welfare of participants in clinical research studies are protected. The ethical and legal codes that govern medical practice also apply to clinical trials.
Each trial follows a carefully controlled protocol -- a study plan which details what researchers will do in the study.
Who pays for clinical trials?
That depends on the study. For a trial involving a new drug, the pharmaceutical company developing the drug usually pays whatever costs your own insurance won’t cover. In other studies, the drug itself may be provided, but the patient’s insurance is billed for costs of administering it.
How can I get involved in a clinical trial?
Ask your physician whether any available trials are appropriate for you. You also can contact Clinical Trials Coordinator Cherie Cox, RN, at 541-269-8392.