Clinical Trials: What Every Cancer Patient Should Know

Cancer patients often think of clinical trials as a treatment of last resort or assume that if they should be in a trial their doctor will tell them. Neither of these is always true, says Joan Schiller, M.D., a lung cancer specialist and Deputy Director of UT Southwestern’s Harold C. Simmons Cancer Center.

Joan Schiller, M.D. and patient

"If you or someone you care about is in cancer treatment, clinical trials are an option to consider," she says. "In fact, we have a wide range of trials right now that are open to patients with all stages of cancer."

In fact, we have a wide range of trials right now that are open to patients with all stages of cancer.”

Clinical trials are the final step in a long process to discover new treatments. The process begins in a laboratory with a new drug or discovery. After years of testing, when a new treatment shows promise, doctors begin testing it in patients. Patients who participate in clinical trials could be the first to receive a novel treatment, and they are helping doctors learn more about how to treat future cancer patients.

"Participation in a clinical trial is always voluntary," Dr. Schiller notes.

Search UT Southwestern’s cancer-related clinical trials at simmonscancercenter.org, and talk to your doctor.

Clinical Trial Phases

Phase IPhase IIPhase IIIPhase IV
Test if a new treatment is safe and what the best way to administer it is (for example, by mouth, in a vein) Test if a new treatment has an effect on a certain type of cancer Test if a new treatment (or new use of an existing treatment) is better than the standard treatment Look at longterm safety and effectiveness