Research - clinical trials for acute lymphoblastic leukaemia
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.
Clinical trials may be carried out to:
test new treatments, such as new chemotherapy drugs or targeted therapies
look at new combinations of existing treatments, or change the way they are given to make them more effective or reduce side effects
compare the effectiveness of drugs used to control symptoms
find out how cancer treatments work
find out which treatments are the most cost-effective.
Trials are the only reliable way to find out if a different type of chemotherapy, radiotherapy, targeted therapy or other treatment is better than what is 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 know that some treatments that look promising at first are often later found not to be as good as existing treatments. Or they may have side effects that outweigh the benefits.
If you decide not to take part in a trial, your decision will be respected and you don’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.
The process of clinical trials is described in detail in our section about research trials.
Blood and tumour samples
Blood and bone marrow 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 at another one. 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. This will hopefully improve the outlook for future patients.