Clinical Trial Frequently Asked Questions

What is a clinical trial and why should I think about participating?

Clinical trials are scientific studies in which new treatments – drugs, diagnostic procedures, and other therapies – are tested in patients to determine if they are safe and effective. In most trials, people receive either today's best available care or a new treatment that is hoped to be better. Such trials help scientists answer questions about new cancer therapies, including what diseases they should be used for, what doses are most effective, and which patients can benefit most.

Nearly all cancer therapies in use today were tested and made available through the participation of hundreds of thousands of cancer patients on clinical trials.

Baptist Cancer Center wants you to make informed choices about your cancer care. Often the best way to move toward curing or controlling your type of cancer is with standard medicines that were approved through this process long ago. However, in some circumstances, a clinical trial can be a better choice, offering hope through treatments otherwise not available to you while impacting future success for other patients.

How do I find out whether a clinical trial is right for me?

Your physician at Baptist will make a recommendation based on your particular situation. In collaboration with Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center (VICC), the National Cancer Institute, and pharmaceutical companies, Baptist Cancer Center offers many different trials. Additionally, we offer Baptist oncologist-initiated trials funded by grant awards. Qualification for one of these may depend on your age, gender, cancer type and stage, and the types of treatment you have already received. Great care will be taken to recommend the best trial for you and to explain the risks and benefits.

I wonder about those risks.

Before any trial begins, it must be approved by an Institutional Review Board (IRB), which includes the finest researchers and physicians and members of the general public. The IRB considers whether proposed studies are safe and well planned, and whether they will ultimately advance patient care and have the highest level of safeguards built in. The board also will review your trial to ensure that you are adequately informed about the risks of participating. In all studies, your health will be closely monitored during the course of the trial.

Would I be given a placebo?

A placebo, something that looks like medicine but isn't, is occasionally used in clinical trials. Placebos are only used together with the best standard treatment. This allows doctors to compare standard treatment alone to standard treatment with a new drug. Patients joining clinical trials are told specifically what treatment they receive, what is tested, and if a placebo drug is part of the study.

What about the clinical trial phases offered at Baptist?

Phase II trials, usually fairly small, provide information about how well a new therapy works and generate information about patient safety. These studies usually focus on a specific type of cancer.

Phase III trials compare new treatments with standard ones to determine which is safer and more effective. These trials generally involve a large number of patients and often take place at several health centers all over the nation at the same time. Patients are assigned to receive either the new cancer therapy or a standard one. In Phase IV trials, FDA-approved treatments receive further study of their side effects.

Are there advantages to considering a clinical trial at Baptist Cancer Center?

For many people, receiving care on a clinical trial is the best treatment option. Furthermore, many people like to know that they are receiving the best possible care, and that their treatment will help people in the future.

Baptist Cancer Center has joined efforts with Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center, a nationally recognized leader in personalized cancer medicine, forming an alliance that provides Baptist patients with access to more leading-edge clinical trials and joint conferences with disease-specific experts to make sure you receive the best of care. You will also have access to the finest supportive care, education, and prevention programs.

Are the trials at Baptist only for people with advanced cancer who are not responding to treatment?

No. There are trials for prevention, for diagnosing cancer, for managing symptoms, and for people at all stages.

Ask your doctor if a clinical trial might be just what you need.