Treatment trials are the most common type of trial. In cancer care, they may be done to:
- test new treatments such as new chemotherapy drugs and targeted therapies
- look at new combinations of existing treatments, or change the way they are given, in order to make them more effective or to reduce side effects
- compare the effectiveness of drugs used for symptom control
- discover which treatments have fewer side effects
- find out more about how cancer treatments work
- see which treatments have the least impact on peoples’ everyday lives
- see which treatments are the most cost-effective.
Treatment trials are the only reliable way of finding out whether a different operation, type of chemotherapy, targeted therapy or radiotherapy is better than what is already available.
If doctors already knew that a new treatment was better than the standard treatment, there would be no need for a clinical trial. Patients would be offered the treatment routinely as part of their care.
The treatment being tested may aim to:
- improve survival (how long people live after treatment)
- relieve the symptoms of cancer
- reduce the side effects of treatment
- improve quality of life or sense of well-being for people with cancer.
Many drugs that are now commonly used in cancer care have been previously tested in clinical trials. Without ongoing research, it wouldn’t be possible to add to our knowledge about effective treatments.