CLINICAL TRIALS FOR CANCER
Doctors and scientists are always looking for better ways to treat patients with Oesophageal cancer.
To make scientific advances, doctors create research studies involving volunteers, called clinical trials.
Many clinical trials are focused on new treatments, evaluating whether a new treatment is safe, effective, and possibly better than the current (standard) treatment. These types of studies evaluate new drugs, different combinations of existing treatments, new approaches to radiation therapy or surgery, and new methods of treatment. Patients who participate in clinical trials are often among the first to receive new treatments before they are widely available. However, there is no guarantee that the new treatment will be safe, effective, or better than a standard treatment.
There are also clinical trials that study new ways to ease symptoms and side effects during treatment and manage the late effects that may occur after treatment. Talk with your doctor about clinical trials regarding side effects. In addition, there are ongoing studies about ways to prevent the disease.
Patients decide to participate in clinical trials for many reasons. For some patients, a clinical trial is the best treatment option available. Because standard treatments are not perfect, patients are often willing to face the added uncertainty of a clinical trial in the hope of a better result. Other patients volunteer for clinical trials because they know that these studies are the only way to make progress in treating esophageal cancer. Even if they do not benefit directly from the clinical trial, their participation may benefit future patients with esophageal cancer.
Sometimes people have concerns that, by participating in a clinical trial, they may receive no treatment by being given a placebo or a “sugar pill.” The use of placebos in cancer clinical trials is rare. When a placebo is used in a study, it is done with the full knowledge of the participants. Find out more about placebos in cancer clinical trials.
To join a clinical trial, patients must participate in a process known as informed consent. During informed consent, the doctor should list all of the patient’s options, so that the person understands how the new treatment differs from the standard treatment. The doctor must also list all of the risks of the new treatment, which may or may not be different than the risks of standard treatment. Finally, the doctor must explain what will be required of each patient in order to participate in the clinical trial, including the number of doctor visits, tests, and the schedule of treatment.
Patients who participate in a clinical trial may stop participating at any time for any personal or medical reason. This may include that the new treatment is not working or there are serious side effects. Clinical trials are also closely monitored by experts who watch for any problems with each study. It is important that patients participating in a clinical trial talk with their doctor and researchers about who will be providing their treatment and care during the clinical trial, after the clinical trial ends, and/or if the patient chooses to leave the clinical trial before it ends.
Research - clinical trials for oesophageal cancer
Cancer research trials are carried out to try to find new and better treatments for cancer. Trials that are carried out on patients are known as clinical trials.
These may be carried out to:
•test new treatments, such as new chemotherapy drugs, gene therapy or cancer vaccines
•look at new combinations of existing treatments, or change the way they are given, to make them more effective or to reduce side effects
•compare the effectiveness of drugs used to control symptoms
•find out how cancer treatments work
•see which treatments are the most cost-effective.
Trials are the only reliable way to find out whether a different operation, type of chemotherapy, radiotherapy or other treatment is better than what’s already available.
Taking part in a trial
You may be asked to take part in a treatment research trial. There can be many benefits in doing this. Trials help to improve knowledge about cancer and develop new treatments. You will be carefully monitored during and after the study.
Usually, several hospitals around the country take part in these trials. It’s important to bear in mind that some treatments that look promising at first are often later found not to be as good as existing treatments or to have side effects that outweigh the benefits.
If you decide not to take part in a trial, your decision will be respected and you won’t have to give a reason. However, it can help to let the staff know your concerns so that they can give you the best advice. There will be no change in the way that you’re treated by the hospital staff, and you’ll be offered the standard treatment for your situation.
Blood, bone marrow or tumour samples may be taken to help make the right diagnosis. You may be asked for your permission to use some of your samples for research into cancer. If you’re taking part in a trial you may also be asked to give other samples, which may be frozen and stored for future use, when new research techniques become available. These samples will have your name removed from them so you can’t be identified.
The research may be carried out at the hospital where you’re treated, or at another one. This type of research takes a long time, and research may not be available for many years.
The samples will, however, be used to increase knowledge about the causes of cancer and its treatment. This research will hopefully improve the outlook for future patients.
There are several research trials in progress looking at the treatment of oesophageal cancer. Your cancer specialist will be able to tell you more about these trials.