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Clinical trials

Clinical trials are an essential part of medical research. They are a way of finding out if new lung cancer treatments are better than current best practice.

Clinical trials can help identify new treatments for lung cancer

Clinical trials for lung cancer aim to find out if a new treatment:

  • Is safe
  • Has side effects
  • Works better than the currently used treatment
  • Helps you feel better.

These are several different phases to a clinical trial.

Phase 1 trials predominantly look at doses and the side effects of a new treatment. It usually involves a small group of people and whilst some participants do see benefits, many do not.

Phase 2 is an extension on phase 1 and looks to see if the new treatment works well enough to test in a larger phase 3 trial.

Patients participating in this trial may still experience side effects that doctors didn’t previously know about. Some phase 2 trials are randomised, and some involve a placebo treatment.

Phase 3 trials compare new treatments against the current standardized treatment to see if it works better.

Most phase 3 trials are randomized. This means you are put into groups, usually by a computer. Each group will then receive a different treatment, for example one group will receive the standard treatment whilst the other will receive the new treatment.

I was told there was no alternative but more chemo. That was when I decided to speak out and start asking questions. I asked if there were any clinical trials and found out there were.

Kathy, living with lung cancer
When Kathy's current lung cancer treatment stopped working, she asked about clinical trials
When Kathy’s current lung cancer treatment stopped working, she asked about clinical trials

Are clinical trials safe?

Hundreds of thousands of people take part in clinical trials every year. Every trial aims to keep the risk of harm to participants to a minimum, but there can be risks to joining a clinical trial as often there is limited understanding of the treatment being tested.

Participants on clinical trials are likely to be monitored more regularly than with standard care. This may include more blood tests, CT scans or other cancer tests. You may also spend more time with your doctor or nurse.

This ensures that any changes in your health, whether related to the treatment you are having or not, are frequently picked up and acted upon earlier than if you were not in a trial.

Will the clinical trial work?

It is important to keep in mind that the drug trial or research study on a new treatment is only carried out to find out if the new option is better than what is currently offered. It may be the same, or it may be worse.

Drugs tested in trials may also not be available on the NHS after the trial ends, though people already getting the drug may continue to receive it for as long as it is effective.

Please be aware, getting into a trial is often based on being able to meet some very specific criteria. Your cancer doctor will be able to tell you if you are eligible.