What is a clinical trial?

Clinical trials are medical studies involving people. Clinical trials for sarcoma can look at:

  • Causes: the risks and causes of sarcoma, often by looking at genetic factors
  • Diagnosis: new tests or scans to diagnose sarcoma
  • Treatments: new types of treatment, or new ways of giving treatment, drugs or combinations of drugs to treat sarcoma
  • Side effects: new drugs or complementary therapies to control the symptoms or side effects of a treatment

The main aim of a clinical trial for new treatments is to test treatments to ensure they are safe and effective. This might improve patients' chances of survival. Researchers may also look at other factors as part of a clinical trial, such as how a treatment affects a patient's quality of life, or whether a treatment reduces the chance of the sarcoma coming back in the future. 

This short video featuring Sarcoma Clinical Research Nurse, Liz Barquin, explains more about clinical trials, what is involved, and the advantages of taking part. 

 

Types of clinical trials

There are lots of types of clinical trial. Clinical trials investigating new treatments are categorised into different phases. This is to do with how the trial is designed and what level of testing a treatment has had.

  • Phase 1: Is the new treatment safe? 
  • Phase 2: Does the new treatment work? 
  • Phase 3: Does the new treatment work better than the current treatment?
  • Phase 4: What else should we know about this new treatment, now that it has been approved?

A patient is usually assigned to one of two groups as part of these treatment trials. This is done randomly via a computer, to ensure that there is no bias which could affect the results of the trial.

  • Treatment group: patients are given the new treatment which is being tested
  • Control group: patients are given the current standard treatment, or a placebo if there is no standard treatment available.

The control group helps the researchers assess how well the new treatment works. But patients in the control group still receive the standard treatment, so they are not missing out on treatment by being in this group.

Not all clinical trials will result in a new and better treatment. For example, a trial might find that a new treatment does not make patients feel any better. But this is still useful for doctors, researchers, and for patients, as this information can be used to develop other treatments in the future. 

To find out more about the types and phases of clinical trials, check out our clinical trials glossary. You can also contact our Support Line on 0808 801 0401 or email supportline@sarcoma.org.uk.

FAIR trials

Research into teenage and young adult cancers has made slower progress than for any other age group. Many of these cancers are sarcomas. One reason is that many clinical trials exclude patients under eighteen with no medical reason for this. 

Sarcoma UK supports the Fostering Age Inclusive Research (FAIR) Trials initiative and calls on researchers, regulators, and members of ethics committees to consider adolescent inclusion in adult research when relevant.

Find out more about FAIR trials.