What are the different types of clinical trials in cancer research?

There are four types of clinical trials for cancer:

  • Phase I trials answer the questions: Is the drug or treatment safe? What is a safe dose? What are the side effects? Phase I trials are small, each only involving 20-80 participants and usually are the first time a drug or treatment has been tested in humans.
  • Phase II trials tell researchers if the drug or treatment is effective in a larger group (100-300 participants) and help identify safety concerns.
  • Phase III trials determine if the experimental drug or treatment works better than what is currently used and if there are additional side effects in a large group of 1,000-3,000 participants. Most Phase III trials are randomized, meaning some participants will receive the standard drug or treatment accepted by the medical community as best for their cancer type (“standard of care”), and others will receive the experimental drug or treatment.
  • Phase IV trials allow researchers to learn more about the drug or treatment and its risks, benefits and best use.

There are numerous types of clinical trials in cancer research. They are:

  • Treatment trials test new treatments for cancer, including tests of new drugs such as chemotherapies, medical devices, approaches to surgery or radiation and a combination of therapies.
  • Prevention trials look for better ways to lower the risk for cancer in people who have never had the disease or to prevent it from recurring. Researchers test new medicines, vitamins, vaccines or lifestyle changes.
  • Screening trials test the best ways to detect cancer in its early stages.
  • Quality of life trials explore ways to improve comfort and quality of life for cancer patients, survivors and their families. This includes ways to reduce side effects such as nausea, vomiting, fatigue or pain.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.