Clinical Trials

What are Clinical Trials?

Clinical research is an important part of our medical practice. More than 9,000 Illinois CancerCare patients have participated in research studies through the Illinois Oncology Research Association. Since 1983, most of that research participation has been coordinated through a federal program called the Community Clinical Oncology Program. This program offers the benefits of clinical research conducted at the Mayo Clinic and other similar facilities to cancer patients in their own communities.

As our patient, you may have an opportunity to be a part of a clinical trial using cutting edge drugs or treatment options. Participation in clinical trials is safe and benefits not only you, but future cancer patients as well.

Research should not be considered a “last resort,” as specific clinical trials are often available for a variety of cancers: surgically removed or not, previously treated or not, localized or spread. Please ask your physician if there is a clinical trial available for you.

If so, a clinical research professional may spend time discussing research participation with you. Participation in research is always voluntary.

Phases of Clinical Trials

Most clinical research that involves the testing of a new drug progresses in an orderly series of steps, called phases. This allows researchers to ask and answer questions in a way that results in reliable information about the drug and protects the patients. Clinical trials are usually classified into one of three phases:

  • Phase I trials: These first studies in people evaluate how a new drug should be given (by mouth, injected into the blood, or injected into the muscle), how often, and what dose is safe. A phase I trial usually enrolls only a small number of patients.
  • Phase II trials: A phase II trial continues to test the safety of the drug, and begins to evaluate how well the new drug works. Phase II studies usually focus on a particular type of cancer.
  • Phase III trials: These studies test a new drug, a new combination of drugs, or a new surgical procedure in comparison to the current standard. A participant will usually be assigned to the standard group or the new group at random (called randomization). Phase III trials often enroll large numbers of people and may be conducted at many clinics and cancer centers nationwide.