Not all patients are cured with standard therapy, and some standard treatments may have more side effects than are desired; therefore, patients may seek help through a clinical trial. Patients who participate in clinical trials have the first chance to benefit from treatments that have shown promise in earlier research. They also make an important contribution to medical science by helping doctors learn more about the disease.
Clinical trials come in four phases.
- In Phase I trials, researchers try to determine safe dose levels
- In Phase II trials, which involve a larger group of patients, researchers hope to build on what they learned in the first phase by trying to establish whether cancers will respond to the safe dose levels and to determine what side effects will occur.
- In Phase III trials, researchers compare the experimental treatment with the standard treatment or a placebo to prove whether the new treatment is truly effective.
- In Phase IV trials, researchers monitor the effects of long-term usage.
Recently, researchers have been looking at novel therapeutic agents to treat cervical cancer. A recent phase II study,which was conducted in part at SCCA/UW/FHCRC, treated women with recurrent cervical cancer with the novel drug bevacizumab and found a better response rate than prior treatment with chemotherapy (citation). This may lead to FDA approval for use of this exciting drug in cervical cancer, which has already been approved for use in breast, colon, and lung cancer.
There is currently a phase III trial available for SCCA cervical patients to participate in using another novel agent, tirapazamine. As one of the missions of SCCA is to advance the field of therapies for cancers by offering to our patients the latest clinical trials available.
For more information about clinical studies, see the Patient Guide to Clinical Trials which includes Myths vs Facts.