Understanding clinical trials
An important component of academic programs like the UC Cancer Center is conducting medical research. A clinical trial, also known as a research study, is a carefully planned test. Ultimately, clinical trials combine science, research and clinical care with the goal of helping patients live longer, healthier lives.
“We’re bringing therapies from the lab to the clinic that offer the hope that we’re going to be curing or allowing cancer patients to live with their disease long term,” explained John C. Byrd, MD, UC Health physician and the Gordon and Helen Taylor Professor of Medicine and chair of the Department of Internal Medicine at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine, an internationally-known cancer researcher and physician, specializing in caring for patients with lymphocytic leukemia and acute myeloid leukemia.
A common fear of clinical trials is that participants are treated as guinea pigs. However, clinical trials are the final step in a long process that begins with research in a lab. Before any new treatments are used with patients in clinical trials, researchers work for many years to understand its effects on cancer cells.
There are numerous types of clinical trials, each with a different purpose:
- Treatment: Test new treatments, combinations of drugs or new approaches procedures like surgery or radiation therapy.
- Prevention: Look for better ways to prevent disease in people who have never had the disease or to prevent a disease from returning. These approaches may include medicines, immunizations, vitamins, minerals or lifestyle changes.
- Diagnostic: Find better tests or procedures for diagnosing a particular disease or condition.
- Screening: Test the best way to detect certain diseases or health conditions.
- Quality of life: Explore ways to improve comfort and the quality of life for individuals with a chronic illness such as cancer.
Not only are patients who participate in UC Cancer Center clinical trials followed for an extended period of time, the process is closely regulated by the U.S. government and monitored by UC’s Review Board.