Research

Learn About Clinical Trials

Clinical trials are research studies involving cancer patients. The studies are designed in many different ways. Some evaluate new cutting-edge therapies. Others compare two different treatments to determine which is better. Ultimately, the goal of each clinical trial is to quickly and safely find new and improved ways to treat cancer.

Clinical trials are important to patients because they offer the opportunity to take advantage of all kinds of new therapies, including new drugs or new ways to use existing drugs, new radiation therapy, new kinds of surgery and new ways to combine different cancer treatments. In addition, they are important because they help future patients. All standard cancer treatments used today are available because patients agreed to participate in clinical studies years ago that proved those treatments worked. There is no way to be sure that treatment provided through a clinical study will work against your cancer, but one thing is certain: Participation in clinical studies helps future patients.

Patient safety is the most important part of everything we do at the Siteman Cancer Center, and that principle is applied to each of our clinical trials. Before any new drug is used in a trial, it is first tested for several years in a research laboratory to confirm the drug is safe and possibly helpful for patients with cancer. Then, before any clinical trial is started at Siteman, it must first be reviewed and approved by a governing body that is dedicated solely to the protection of patients.

Our doctors will only offer a study if they believe it is one of the best possible treatment options for you. If at any time your doctor believes a clinical study is no longer benefiting you or there is a better therapy available, he or she will change your treatment plan to make sure you are receiving the best possible care.

Whether or not you participate in a clinical study is entirely up to you. If you do agree to participate, you can withdraw from the study any time you choose. Withdrawing from a study will not affect the quality of your care. Your care will always be our top priority.

Patients who participate in clinical trials see the same doctors and nurses as other patients. However, they have an extra layer of support while they are participating in a study. Siteman has a team of nearly 100 staff members who work on our clinical trials, and one specific person is assigned to each study. That person works with our doctors and nurses to help make sure research participants are safe at all times and to provide additional assistance to any patients who may need it.

Only you and your doctor can decide if a clinical trial is best for you, but we encourage all patients to ask their doctor if a trial is available and appropriate for them.

Types of Clinical Trials

The Siteman Cancer Center offers three types, or phases, of clinical trials. As you might expect, the phases are labeled chronologically: phase I, phase II, phase III. You do not have to participate in all three phases, just the one trial that is right for you.

Phase I: Because this is the first step for each study, a phase I clinical trial typically enrolls only 15 to 30 patients with various types of cancer. The main goals of a phase I trial are usually:

  • To find the safest dose of a new treatment
  • To decide the best way to give a new treatment
  • To make sure the new treatment is safe

Phase II: The Siteman Cancer Center has more phase II studies than any other type of trial. Only treatments proven to be safe in earlier phase I studies move on to phase II. These studies typically enroll 20 to 80 patients with a specific type of cancer. The main goal of a phase II trial is usually to see if the new treatment is effective against a specific type of cancer.

Phase III: Phase III trials are the type of studies you often hear about on TV. Only treatments shown to be both safe and effective in earlier phase I and phase II studies move on to phase III. Typically, phase III trials enroll from 100 to 1,000 patients. The main goal is usually to compare a new treatment with the current standard treatment and see which is better.

Clinical Trial Eligibility

Each clinical trial has very specific guidelines that must be followed. The guidelines outline the specific treatment plan, the patient’s schedule of assessments and exactly who will be able to join the study. There are only a certain number of patients allowed in each trial, and every patient enrolled must meet specific criteria. There are several common criteria, for example:

  • Patients must have a certain type and stage of cancer
  • Patients must have received a certain type of treatment in the past
  • Patients must be in a certain age group

Criteria like these help us make sure all patients treated through a study are as similar as possible. This is important because we need to know that the results of a study are truly due to the treatment and not other factors (like cancer type, prior treatments or age).

These criteria also help us make sure all patients are safe while participating in a study. Some patients have health problems besides cancer that could be made worse by the treatments in a study. If you are interested in joining a trial, you will receive medical tests to be sure you are not put at increased risk.

Some criteria can be complicated. Don’t worry  – you don’t need to review these criteria yourself. If you are interested in a trial, our team will review the criteria for you and notify you and your doctor quickly about your eligibility.

Only you and your doctor can decide if a clinical trial is best for you, but we encourage all patients to ask their doctor if a trial is available and appropriate for them.

Signing Up for a Clinical Trial

If you are interested in learning more about clinical trials at the Siteman Cancer Center, you should ask your doctor or nurse if a clinical trial is available and appropriate for you.

You can look for clinical trials available at Siteman in our clinical trials database. You can search for trials by disease type, keyword, principal investigator and protocol number.

If you have questions or want more information, please call us at 314-747-7222 or 800-600-3606.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a clinical trial?

Clinical trials are research studies. At the Siteman Cancer Center, these studies involve cancer patients. Ultimately, the goal of each trial is to quickly and safely find new and improved ways to treat cancer.

How does participation in clinical trials help me?

Clinical trials offer access to all kinds of new therapies, including new drugs or new ways to use existing drugs, new radiation therapy, new kinds of surgery and new ways to combine different cancer treatments.

How does participation in clinical trials help others?

Participation in clinical trials helps future patients. All standard cancer treatments used today are available because patients agreed to participate in clinical studies years ago that proved those treatments worked. There is no way to be sure that treatment provided through a clinical study will work against every cancer, but one thing is certain: Participation in clinical studies helps future patients.

What are the risks of participating in clinical trials?

Some potential risks to participating in clinical trials include:

  • Some side effects may be worse than standard treatment
  • Some unexpected side effects may occur
  • Some treatments may not end up being as effective as standard treatment

How is patient safety protected?

Patient safety is the most important part of everything we do, and that principle is applied to each of our clinical trials. Before any new drug is used in a trial, it is first tested for several years in a research laboratory, where experiments are done to confirm the drug is safe and possibly helpful for patients with cancer. Then, before any clinical trial is started at Siteman, it must first be reviewed and approved by a governing body that is dedicated solely to the protection of patients.

Our doctors will only offer a study if they believe it is one of the best possible treatment options for you. If at any time your doctor believes a clinical study is no longer benefiting you or there is a better therapy available, he or she will change your treatment plan to make sure you are receiving the best possible care.

Whether or not you participate in a clinical study is entirely up to you. If you do agree to participate, you can withdraw from the study any time you choose. Withdrawing from a study will not affect the quality of your care. Your care will always be our top priority.

Will I receive the same quality of care on a clinical trial as other patients?

Patients who participate in clinical trials see the same doctors and nurses as our other patients. However, they have an extra layer of support while they are participating in a study. Siteman has a team of nearly 100 staff members who work on our clinical trials, and one specific person is assigned to each study. That person works with our doctors and nurses to help make sure research participants are safe at all times and to provide additional assistance to any patients who may need it.

What questions should I ask about participating in a clinical trial?

Deciding whether or not to participate in a clinical trial is a very important decision. When considering participation in a clinical trial, you should take as much time as you need and ask as many questions as it takes until all of the answers are clear to you. Here are some general questions you may want to ask:

  • What are my treatment options?
  • How will treatment on a clinical trial affect my prognosis?
  • What are the potential short-term and long-term side effects?
  • How often and for how long would I receive treatment on the clinical trial?
  • How often would I need to visit Siteman if I participate in a clinical trial and what kind of procedures would I need to undergo?
  • What procedures will be billed to me or my insurance?
  • Will my insurance cover my participation in a clinical trial?

 

What will I have to pay for if I participate in a clinical trial?

While you are participating in a clinical trial, you or your insurer will be required to pay for procedures that are considered standard of care. This includes procedures that your doctor would perform even if you were not part of a clinical trial, such as doctor visits, drugs, blood work and radiology scans. These will be billed to you or your insurer whether you are on a clinical trial or not. While you are participating in a clinical trial, any research procedures will be paid for by the study. Research items are special procedures that are only being performed because you are part of a clinical trial. You or your insurer never need to pay for any research procedures.

Is a clinical trial right for me?

Whether you should participate in a clinical trial is a very personal decision. Only you and your doctor can decide if a clinical trial is best for you, but we encourage all patients to ask their doctor if a trial is available and appropriate for them.

How can I make a donation to Siteman’s clinical trials program?

If you wish to make a donation, please speak with your doctor or nurse or call 314-935-4725. If you would like to make an online donation, please specify in the form that the gift is designated for the clinical trials program.