Research - clinical trials for bowel 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 if a different type of surgery, chemotherapy, radiotherapy or other treatment is better than what’s already available.
Taking part in a trial
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You may be asked to take part in a treatment research trial, and there can be many benefits in doing this. Trials help to improve knowledge about cancer and develop new treatments.
You’ll 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 to be less effective than 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 do not have to give a reason. There will be no change in the way you are treated by the hospital staff and you’ll be offered the standard treatment for your situation.
Blood and tumour samples
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Blood and 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 take part in a trial you may also give other samples, which may be frozen and stored for future use when new research techniques become available. Your name will be removed from the samples so you can’t be identified.
The research may be carried out at the hospital where you are treated, or it may be at another hospital. This type of research takes a long time, and results may not be available for many years. The samples will be used to increase knowledge about the causes of cancer and its treatment, which will hopefully improve the outlook for future patients.
If you are due to have a planned operation you may be asked to take part in the EnROL trial, which is comparing conventional surgery with keyhole surgery. The trial is trying to find out if keyhole surgery will help people to recover more quickly.
If your colon cancer has spread to the liver at the time of diagnosis and it’s not possible to remove the cancer with surgery, you might be able to take part in the FOXFIRE trial. This trial uses a form of internal radiotherapy and chemotherapy to treat the disease in the liver. You can discuss this with your doctor.
Aspirin and bowel cancer
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A number of trials have shown that taking aspirin regularly can reduce the risk of developing bowel cancer. But it’s unclear how long it should be taken for and the dose that should be used.
Research has also suggested that aspirin may be helpful as part of treatment for bowel cancer. However, there are some potential serious health risks when aspirin is taken for a long time. So it’s important to talk to your doctors if you’re considering taking aspirin on a regular basis.
Our section on clinical trials describes the process in more detail. It includes details of databases you can search to look at trials for colon cancer.