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Wilmot Cancer Institute / Research / Clinical Trials / How Do Clinical Trials Work?


How Do Clinical Trials Work?

The purpose of clinical trials is to develop treatments that improve the standard of care and a patient’s quality of life. Standard of care is defined as the best treatment we have today, based on previous research. Today’s clinical trials will lead to tomorrow’s standard of care. 

Wilmot offers many different types of clinical trials including:

  • Treatment- These trials test new cancer drug therapies, new combinations of drugs, or new approaches to surgery or radiation therapy.
  • Prevention- The goal is to prevent cancer in people who have never had the disease or to prevent cancer from returning. Prevention trials may include medicines, vaccines, supplements, or lifestyle changes.
  • Diagnostic- These trials are designed to find better tests or procedures for diagnosing cancer.
  • Screening- This type of trial evaluates the best ways to detect certain cancers.
  • Quality of Life- Trials in this category explore ways to improve comfort, supportive care, quality-of-life, and survivorship for cancer patients.

Researchers conduct clinical trials in phases:

  • Phase I tests an experimental drug or treatment in a small group of people (20-80) for the first time to evaluate its safety, determine a safe dosage range, and identify side effects;
  • Phase II studies are conducted in a larger group of people (100-300) to see if the treatment is effective and to further evaluate its safety;
  • Phase III studies are conducted in large groups of people (1000-3000) to confirm the treatment’s effectiveness, monitor side effects, compare it to commonly used treatments, and collect information that will allow the experimental drug or treatment to be used safely