Clinical trials are studies that help researchers find new ways to prevent, diagnose, or treat disease. They are the primary way scientists determine whether new treatments are safe and effective. However, there are also risks, such as the possibility of receiving treatment that won’t help you.
If you have lung cancer, participating in a clinical trial may give you access to an innovative treatment that is not yet available to the public. Sometimes a drug delivered through a clinical trial is the best option for survival for lung cancer patients.
While there are advantages and disadvantages to participating in research, lung cancer patients may need to consider it.
What is a clinical trial?
A clinical trial is a study that tests the safety and effectiveness of a method in preventing, diagnosing, or treating a disease.
Some clinical trials test new drugs or treatments. Other studies compare existing treatments with new ones, evaluate different doses of drugs, or examine treatment combinations. Additionally, clinical trials may look at how to make people feel better by improving their quality of life.
There are different types of clinical trials for all stages and types of lung cancer.
How many people participate in clinical trials?
Although cancer patients can benefit from participating in clinical trials, studies show that less than 5% of cancer patients participate in clinical trials.
How clinical trials work
Laboratory studies are completed before clinical trials are conducted. These preclinical studies are usually performed on animals or cell cultures.
If laboratory studies show positive results, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) can approve the start of clinical trials.
The clinical trial is divided into four phases to test the treatment, with Phase 4 occurring after the FDA has already approved the therapy. Phases 1-3 involve:
- Phase 1: Phase 1 trials test a new treatment in a small group of people to determine its safety, side effects and dosage. Typically, Phase 1 trials involve 15-40 participants.
- Phase 2: Phase 2 studies involve more people, usually fewer than 100. The main goal of this phase is to determine if the treatment is working. Scientists are also concerned about safety and side effects.
- Phase 3: In a Phase 3 trial, researchers test different doses of the treatment, possibly in combination with other drugs. Scientists aim to learn more about safety and side effects. These studies typically include hundreds to thousands of volunteers.
The benefits of clinical trials
Some of the potential benefits of participating in a clinical trial are:
- Get cutting-edge treatments you can’t get
- Access to high-quality medical, nursing care through regular check-ups
- Take a more active role in your health
- Participate in helping scientists discover new treatments that can benefit patients in the future
Benefits for Lung Cancer Patients
Lung cancer patients in particular may benefit from clinical trials. This is because this type of cancer is often diagnosed at an advanced stage when treatment options are limited. Participating in a trial may help some lung cancer patients get a treatment that can improve their chances of survival.
Some of the possible risks or disadvantages of participating in a trial may include:
- receive treatment that is no better than standard care
- You must pay for treatment if your health insurance doesn’t cover it
- experience unwanted side effects
- Do not know if the treatment you are receiving is fully effective
- Had to travel long distances to see a doctor
Types of Lung Cancer Clinical Trials
There are different types of lung cancer clinical trials, and you should choose one based on your specific needs.
An interventional trial is a clinical trial in which patients receive a specific drug or therapy.
In an interventional cancer trial, you may be randomly assigned to one group to receive a different type of treatment than another. For example, people in the “control” group will take standard medicines, while those in the “experimental” group will receive new cancer treatments.
Not all intervention trials randomize participants. Before you get involved, you should understand how the research will be conducted.
Double-blind placebo-controlled clinical trial basis
Phase 4 clinical trials
Phase 4 clinical trials are studies that include patients with stage 4 cancer. Treatment options for advanced lung cancer are often limited, so if you have this stage of cancer, clinical trials may be especially beneficial.
Overview of lung cancer staging
Clinical Trials in Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer
Some clinical trials are designed specifically for patients with a type of lung cancer called non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). This is the most common type and may require different treatments than others.
How to Find Lung Cancer Clinical Trials
If you are interested in participating in a lung cancer clinical trial, please consult your healthcare provider first. They may be able to help you find the research that will benefit you the most.
Occasionally, local advertisements in newspapers or on television include information about clinical trials.
Clinical Trial Resources
The following online resources provide ways to learn more about lung cancer clinical trials:
- National Cancer Institute
- Center observation
- American Lung Cancer Foundation
Questions to ask before registering
Before enrolling in a clinical trial, you may have many questions. Here are some things you might consider asking your healthcare provider:
- What is the purpose of a clinical trial?
- What treatment will I receive?
- Is it possible that I am not aware of the treatment I am receiving?
- Is there another treatment option that works better?
- How long will the study last?
- What are the risks or side effects of the treatment I will receive?
- Do I need additional tests or procedures?
- How often do I need to see a medical professional?
- Will my insurance pay for treatment?
- Who will be responsible for my medical care while I am in the trial?
- Can I get this treatment after the clinical trial is over?
Patient Safety and Informed Consent
If you decide to participate in a clinical trial, you will be asked to provide written informed consent.
The consent form will cover a range of issues, including:
- risks involved
- What types of tests do you need
- How to protect your identity
- who will pay for the treatment
- Your right to leave the study
Several different people and institutions are involved in overseeing the safety and procedures of clinical trials. For example, institutional review boards ensure that those involved in clinical trials are protected and comply with the law.
In addition, the Data Safety Monitoring Board observes the safety and efficacy of the treatments being tested. Government agencies such as the Office of Human Research Protection (OHRP), the FDA, and the National Cancer Institute (NCI) also play an important role in helping to ensure that clinical trial safety protocols are followed.
Decide to participate in a clinical trial
The decision to participate in a lung cancer clinical trial is a personal one. It is best to discuss the benefits and risks with your healthcare provider to determine if you are a suitable candidate.
Research Lung Cancer Clinical Trials
Online resources and any information your healthcare provider provides can help you learn more about lung cancer clinical trials. There are many trials going on, so it’s important to do your research to determine which ones will benefit you the most.
How to find the right clinical trial
Finding the right lung cancer clinical trial can take some careful planning. You need to make sure that you are eligible to participate in the trial and that you can benefit from the treatment being studied. Knowing the details of your condition can help you narrow down the clinical trials that will best help you.
Here is some useful information:
- the type of lung cancer you have
- the stage of your cancer
- what treatments have you tried
- where the cancer has spread (if it has spread)
You should also consider what side effects or risks you are willing to take if you participate in a trial.
Clinical trials in lung cancer are important in helping researchers identify new treatments. Participating in a study may give you the opportunity to try a therapy that is not available to you. However, there are also risks to consider when joining a study. Your healthcare provider can help you decide if a clinical trial is right for you.
Getting a lung cancer diagnosis can be scary. Usually, this cancer is found when it has spread to other parts of the body. For lung cancer patients with few options, clinical trials may put them on a treatment that could improve survival. While clinical trials aren’t for everyone, it’s worth considering if you have lung cancer.
Frequently Asked Questions
Are there new treatments for non-small cell lung cancer?
Researchers have been testing new treatments for non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). For example, targeted therapy and immunotherapy are two new options being investigated. The National Cancer Institute provides a list of ongoing NSCLC clinical trials.
Are there clinical trials for stage 4 lung cancer?
Clinical trials are ongoing for patients with all stages of lung cancer, including Phase 4. You can search for lung cancer clinical trials at Clinicaltrials.gov.