Research - clinical trials for chronic lymphocytic leukaemia (CLL)
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 operation, type of chemotherapy, radiotherapy or other treatment is better than what is already available.
Taking part in a trial
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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 may look promising at first, but 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 don’t have to give a reason. However, it can help to let the staff know your concerns so 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 still be offered the best standard treatment for your situation.
Blood and tumour samples
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Blood and bone marrow or lymph node 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 are being treated, or at another hospital. It’s unlikely that you’ll hear any results as this research takes a long time and results are often not available for many years. The samples will, however, be used to increase knowledge about cancer treatment and what causes cancer. This research will hopefully improve the outlook for future patients.
There are a number of CLL trials going on in the UK. Many of the trials are organised by the National Cancer Research Institute (NCRI) CLL trials sub-group. Some trials are testing new combinations of existing treatments, to find out if this makes them more effective. Other trials are looking for more effective treatments for CLL that is difficult to treat or is no longer responding to standard treatments. Some trials are looking at the possible causes of chronic leukaemia, including genetics.
We have more information about current clinical trial databases.