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Clinical Trials - What Can I Expect?

Clinical trials, also called research studies, test new treatments in people with cancer.  The goal of this research is to find better ways to treat cancer patients.  Clinical trials test many types of treatment such as new drugs, new approaches to surgery or radiation therapy, or new combinations of treatments.

Clinical trials are important in two ways.  Clinical trials contribute to knowledge and progress against cancer.  If a new treatment proves effective in a study, it may become a new standard treatment that can help many patients.  Many of today’s most effective standard treatments are based on previous study results. Clinical trials also answer important scientific questions and suggest future research directions. Because of progress made through clinical trials, many people treated for cancer are now living longer.
Secondly, patients who take part in a clinical trial may be helped personally by the treatment they receive.  They get up-to-date care from cancer experts and they receive either a new treatment being tested or the best available standard treatment for their cancer.  There is no guarantee that a new treatment being tested or a standard treatment will produce good results. New treatments also may have unknown risks.  If a new treatment proves effective or more effective than standard treatment, study patients who receive it may be among the first to benefit.  Some patients receive standard treatment and benefit from it as well.
Many patients often choose to receive their first treatment in a clinical trial.
Patients who come to the Summa Health System can expect to be offered participation in a clinical trial if there is a trial available and they are eligible to enroll.  The physicians will determine if a patient is a candidate for a clinical trial open at this center.  If so, the patient meets with the physician and a clinical research nurse, a member of the Cancer Research Team.  The physician and nurse explain the clinical trial in detail and answer any questions the patient has.  The nurse gives the patient a document called the informed consent form.  This form explains the details of the study, side effects of treatment and the patient’s rights and protections while participating in the clinical trial.  
The patient takes this document home to review with family and friends.  The research nurse will contact the patient two days later to answer any questions or provide more explanation so that the patient understands the clinical trial process. This document must be signed by the patient before study participation can begin.
After the informed consent document is signed, the patient will be evaluated for eligibility to enroll in the study. Eligibility criteria are an important principle of medical research.  These criteria help protect patient safety, so that people who could be harmed by study drugs or other treatments are not exposed to the risk.  Blood tests, x-rays, scans and other medical tests are conducted and the results will determine if the patient is eligible.  Once eligibility is confirmed, the patient is enrolled in the clinical trial.  
The research nurse coordinates the patient’s medical care according to the study.  She provides details to the infusion center nurses or radiation therapists who will be giving the treatments.  The research nurse is the patient’s liaison between the physicians, nurses, therapists and study sponsors.  She follows the patient through the treatment, collects data about how the patient responds to the treatment and submits the data to the study sponsor.
The collected data is analyzed and results are published in the medical literature.  Participating in clinical trials is important to the progress made in developing new effective treatments for cancer. 
Summa Health System has over 100 open clinical trials for patients’ participation.  The treatments are given in the Jean and Milton Cooper Cancer Center in the infusion center and/or radiation oncology department.  The center has its own free parking lot as well as a valet who will park cars for patients who need assistance.  The Cancer Research Office is located in the center and research nurses are available daily to meet with clinical trial participants and their families.  Participating in a clinical trial at Summa Health System means patients get cutting edge therapies closer to home from caring physicians and staff in a convenient location.