Clinical Studies Overview

Patient Guide to Clinical Trials

Doctors at Seattle Cancer Care Alliance (SCCA) treat people with cancer, cancer-related illness, and certain noncancerous blood, bone marrow, autoimmune, and other conditions; they also conduct research at SCCA’s founding organizations—Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, UW Medicine, and Seattle Children’s.

At SCCA, our patients may have access to new or innovative treatments available only through clinical studies (also called clinical trials), which may not be offered at other clinics or treatment centers. This section is written for patients and their families and friends who want more information about this important option. For many of the conditions we treat, the best treatment option may be found in a clinical study.

We encourage all patients to consider participating in clinical studies that are suited to their circumstances.

Why Do Clinical Studies Matter?

Clinical studies are essential to disease research and are a key component of SCCA’s mission to translate scientific discoveries into prevention, diagnosis, treatment, and cure for cancer and all the conditions we treat. Without clinical studies, new interventions could not be approved.

Every advance in cancer treatment in recent years has come out of clinical studies. Take just one important example: Bone marrow transplantation, among the most significant medical advances of the 20th century, was developed by researchers at Fred Hutch. Now used to treat many kinds of cancers and noncancerous blood disorders, this life-saving treatment would not exist without patients who were willing to participate in clinical studies.

Learn more about the importance of clinical studies.

Who Are Clinical Studies For?

The goal of clinical studies is to increase our knowledge about diseases and to develop safer, more effective treatments in the fight against them. Cancer is complex, and there are clinical studies that look at many aspects and stages of the disease—studies are not just for patients in the final stages of their illness. There are studies:

  • To examine ways to prevent cancer in healthy people
  • To better detect and diagnose cancer
  • For patients starting initial treatment and for patients who relapse
  • To assess the quality of life of cancer patients and survivors

Learn more about types of clinical studies.

What Do Clinical Studies Test?

Many clinical studies test new interventions or new combinations of interventions in people, sometimes referred to as human subjects or study participants. New interventions include:

  • Medical products, such as drugs and devices
  • Procedures, such as surgery and radiation therapy techniques
  • Behavior changes, such as diet and exercise

Some clinical studies focus on the long-term effects of treatments already in use.

Before reaching clinical studies, a new intervention typically will have been studied in the laboratory (nonclinical studies) and in animals (pre-clinical studies). Clinical studies are carefully designed to answer questions about the safety and effectiveness of the intervention in people. Clinical study participants are closely monitored throughout the study.

Learn more about phases of clinical studies and safety of participants.

How Does SCCA Research Benefit Me?

It’s always up to you whether to take part in a clinical study. One potential benefit is that you may be among the first to get access to a promising new treatment. Even if you decide not to participate, the fact that SCCA provides treatment for patients in studies is a good reason to come here for your care.

Because of SCCA’s commitment to developing advances in treatment and our reputation as a hub for research, we attract the best and most experienced doctors, who can offer you access to the latest treatment options. SCCA also attracts patients who are more likely to be savvy health care consumers: patients who are interested in treatment options beyond those offered in the community setting and who expect—and receive—a high standard of care.

SCCA, Fred Hutch, and UW Medicine form the only National Cancer Institute-designated comprehensive cancer center in the Northwest. And importantly, SCCA patients in general have better survival rates than patients treated elsewhere