What are clinical trials?
Clinical trials are studies, managed by government agencies, educational institutions, private not-for-profit organizations, or commercial businesses, to develop, produce, and evaluate the effectiveness of new treatments and therapies for diseases.
What are the risks and benefits of participating in a clinical trial?
Individuals who participate in research studies are given the opportunity to benefit from treatments that are not currently available to the general public, but have shown promise in previous research.
Risks from participating in a clinical trial vary depending on the study. It is important to understand that not all new treatments produce the desired effect.
Are there clinical trials for prostate cancer?
Several clinical trials to evaluate prostate cancer have been completed or are currently underway, including the following:
- Prostate Cancer Outcomes Study
In 1994, the National Cancer Institute (NCI) started the Prostate Cancer Outcomes Study (PCOS) to investigate the impact of treatments such as radical prostatectomy (removing the prostate), radiotherapy, and hormonal therapy, versus no treatment for primary prostate cancer on the patients' quality of life. By looking at the health outcomes of prostate cancer treatments, the goal of the study is to provide patients, their families, and physicians information to make decisions about which treatment options are best for their situation. The results of this study are ongoing and will be published in various medical journals over the next few years.
- PLCO (Prostate, Lung, Colorectal, and Ovarian Cancer Screening Trial)
Sponsored by the National Cancer Institute (NCI), the goal of this 16-year study is to determine whether screening tests for prostate, lung, colorectal, and ovarian cancer will reduce the number of deaths from these cancers. Screening tests are medical tests designed to look for a disease in a healthy individual who has not yet developed symptoms of the disease.
- Cancer Genetics Network (CGN)
In 1998, the National Cancer Institute (NCI) developed a national network of centers specializing in the study of inherited predisposition to cancer. A number of genetic issues related to cancer are being explored, including the following:
- How often are genetic mutations that predispose an individual to cancer found in various populations?
- If you have one of these mutations, why do some of these persons develop cancer, while others do not?
- Are there any environmental exposures that interact with these susceptibility genes to cause cancer?
- What are the issues - ethically, socially, psychologically - for individuals who carry cancer susceptibility genes?
The CGN is compiling a registry of families who have a significant number of relatives with various forms of cancer, in order to answer these questions.
- SELECT (Selenium and Vitamin E Cancer Prevention Trial)
This largest-ever prostate cancer prevention clinical trial will examine whether either vitamin E or selenium protects against prostate cancer. Previous research indicated that selenium and vitamin E may reduce prostate cancer risk by 30 to 60 percent. The trial is sponsored by the National Cancer Institute. Study participants will be followed for seven to 12 years.
Where do I find additional information about participating in a clinical trial?
You can find a clinical trial taking place at The James on our Web site, or access additional information about clinical trials and ongoing research from the National Cancer Institute's Web site. Then, on their home page, type in the words "prostate cancer clinical trials" in the Search box.