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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:
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.
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 that look promising at first are often later found not to be as good as 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 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.
There may be trials looking at new drugs or different chemotherapy drugs to treat advanced melanoma. Some of these trials may test different combinations of drugs to see if the combination is more effective than either drug given alone.
Most trials have very specific entry criteria. It’s only possible to take part in the trial if you fit the criteria. For example, you may need to have tried certain treatments first. Or the melanoma cells may need to have certain characteristics for a specific trial drug to be used. Your doctor will let you know about any specific trials that may be suitable for you.
Blood and bone marrow or 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 are 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 treated, or at another one. This type of research takes a long time, so you are unlikely to hear the results. The samples will, however, be used to increase knowledge about the causes of cancer and its treatment. This research will hopefully improve the outlook for future patients.
Content last reviewed: 1 February 2012
Next planned review: 2014
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© Macmillan Cancer Support 2013
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