Research - clinical trials for acute lymphoblastic leukaemia
Research trials are carried out to try to find new and better treatments for leukaemia. 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, 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 or new 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, and there can be many benefits in doing this. Trials help to improve knowledge about leukaemia and develop new treatments.
You will also 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 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.
The process of clinical trials is described in detail in our section about research trials.
Blood and tumour samples
When you are diagnosed with ALL, many blood and bone marrow samples may be taken. You may be asked for your permission to use some of those samples for research. If you’re taking part in a trial you may also be asked to give other samples which can 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 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, however, be used to increase knowledge about the causes of leukaemia and its treatment. This research will, hopefully, improve the outlook for future patients.