Skip to content

    Breast Cancer Health Center

    Select An Article

    Is a Breast Cancer Clinical Trial Right for You?

    Font Size
    A
    A
    A

    What Is a Clinical Trial?

    A clinical trial is a research program done with patients to evaluate a new medical treatment, drug, or device. The purpose of a breast cancer clinical trial is to find new and improved methods of treating the disease. Clinical trials make it possible to apply the latest advances to patient care.

    During a breast cancer clinical trial, researchers, usually doctors, use the best available treatment as a standard by which to assess new treatments. These treatments may be a new drug, surgery, or an alternative medicine.

    Recommended Related to Breast Cancer

    5 Things Young Women Must Know About Breast Cancer

    Just a few months before learning that she had breast cancer, Christina Applegate got a shocking insight into the struggles faced by other young women also at high risk for the disease -- and who don’t have the resources of a Hollywood celebrity. Because her mother had battled breast cancer and ovarian cancer, Applegate had been going for regular mammograms since age 30. “But when I turned 36, my doctor said that my breasts were just too dense for mammography alone, and he referred me for screening...

    Read the 5 Things Young Women Must Know About Breast Cancer article > >

    First, researchers study new treatment options in the laboratory, in test tubes, and in laboratory animals. If results are promising, these treatments are further evaluated in a small group of people and, finally, in a larger clinical trial.

    When a new medical treatment is studied for the first time in people, no one knows exactly how it will work. With any new treatment for breast cancer, there are possible risks as well as benefits. Clinical trials help doctors discover the answers to these questions:

    • Is the treatment safe and effective?
    • Is the treatment potentially better than ones already available?
    • What are the side effects of the treatment?
    • Does the treatment have any risks?
    • How well does the treatment work?
    • What is the maximum tolerable dose of the drug?

    What Are the Different Types?

    All clinical trials are done in phases, each designed to find out specific information. Each new phase of a clinical trial builds on information from previous stages.

    Participants may be eligible for clinical trials in different phases, depending on their health. Most clinical trial participants take part in phase III.

    Phase I clinical trials study the safety of the new breast cancer treatment. It is determined what doses are safe to give and by what route -- by mouth, or injection into a vein or muscle -- and how often it should be given. Phase I clinical trials usually enroll a very small number of people.

    Phase II clinical trials happen if the treatment is found to be safe in the phase I trial. Phase II studies look at whether the treatment is effective, in people with advanced disease, and in certain cancers. Phase II clinical trials generally involve fewer than 100 people.

    Phase III clinical trials compare the new treatment with the standard treatment to determine which one is superior. These trials may include hundreds of people across the country. If a treatment does well in phase III studies, it may receive FDA approval for use.

    1 | 2 | 3 | 4
    Next Article:

    Today on WebMD

    Breast Cancer Overview
    From mammograms to living after treatment.
    Dealing with breast cancer
    Get answers to your questions.
     
    woman having mammogram
    The 3 latest tips to know.
    woman undergoing breast cancer test
    Most abnormalities aren’t breast cancer.
     
    Resolved To Quit Smoking
    VIDEO
    Breast Cancer Treatments Improving
    Article
     
    Woman getting mammogram
    Article
    Screening Tests for Women
    Article
     
    serious woman
    Article
    Pink badge on woman chest to support breat cancer
    QUIZ
     
    what is your cancer risk
    Article
    breast cancer survivors
    Article