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Types of Clinical Trials

Courtesy of National Cancer Institute - Date reviewed: 1/14/2004)

Why are there clinical trials?

Clinical trials are research studies in which people help doctors find ways to improve health and cancer care. Each study tries to answer scientific questions and to find better ways to prevent, diagnose, or treat cancer. A clinical trial is one of the final stages of a long and careful cancer research process. Studies are done with cancer patients to find out whether promising approaches to cancer prevention, diagnosis, and treatment are safe and effective.

What are the different types of clinical trials?

Prevention trials - test new approaches, such as medicines, vitamins, minerals, or other supplements that doctors believe may lower the risk of a certain type of cancer. These trials look for the best way to prevent cancer in people who have never had cancer or to prevent cancer from coming back or a new cancer occuring in people who have already had cancer. See Understanding Prevention Trials for additional information, as well as Taking Part in Clinical Trials: Cancer Prevention Studies.

Screening trials - test the best way to find cancer, especially in it's early stages. See Understanding Screening Trials for additional information.

Diagnostic trials - study tests or procedures that could be used to identify cancer more accurately and at an earlier stage. Diagnostic trials usually include people who have signs or symptoms of cancer.

Treatment trials - test new treatments (like a new cancer drug, new approaches to surgery or radiation therapy, new combinations of treatments, or new methods such as gene therapy). See Taking Part in Clinical Trials: What Cancer Patients Need to Know.

Supportive Care or Quality of Life trials - explore ways to improve comfort and quality of life for cancer patients. See Understanding Supportive Care Trials for additional information.

Genetics Studies - sometimes part of another cancer clinical trial. The genetics component of the trial may focus on how genetic makeup can affect detection, diagnosis, or response to cancer treatment.

Population- and family-based genetic research studies differ from traditional cancer clinical trials. In these studies, researchers look at tissue or blood samples, generally from families or large groups of people, to find genetic changes that are associated with cancer. People who participate in genetics studies may or may not have cancer, depending on the study. The goal of these studies is to help understand the role of genes in the development of cancer.

Phase Information & Other Resources

Read our page on clinical trial phases, participation considerations, and further information resources:
Clinical Trial Information