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Clinical Trials

What Are Clinical Trials?

Clinical trials are research studies designed to find new and better ways to treat patients with cancer and other diseases.

Physicians and scientists conduct clinical trials to find out:

Clinical trials may test new drugs, new approaches to using existing treatments, or newly developed methods of treatment.

Clinical trials are unique studies in that they rely on the participation of patients to test the new therapies. They are conducted only after a long process of research on the new treatment has already been completed.

Before ever testing a new treatment with people, studies are performed in research labs and with animals to examine possible benefits and side effects. By the time the treatment is given to patients in a clinical trial, it has been under study for many months or years.

When planning a clinical trial, an investigator (usually a physician) must write a detailed plan that outlines both the background and purposes of the study and the exact way in which the study will be conducted. This plan or "protocol" details each step of treatment and care for patients in the study, and it must be approved by scientific review boards within the investigator's institution and within the organization that sponsors the study. The protocol for the study ensures that the patients in study receive appropriate treatment and high-quality care and that the research is conducted scientifically.

Clinical trials are conducted in three phases, each aimed at answering a different research question. Each newly developed treatment must go through all three trial phases.

Find a Clinical Trial

To find a clinical trial, search our clinical trials database by topic (keyword), study number, or investigator.

This page was last updated on: May 15, 2009.