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Clinical trials we are funding
Clinical trials help find new methods for diagnosing, treating, managing and preventing cancer. They examine a broad range of areas:
- new anticancer drugs, including chemotherapy, hormonal therapy, biological therapy and immunotherapy agents
- new approaches to cancer prevention, screening, surgery and radiation therapy
- new combinations of treatments
- new ways of using standard treatments
- complementary and alternative cancer therapies
- supportive care to reduce the impact of cancer on emotions and behaviour
Even the most promising scientific findings must first be proven to be safe and effective in clinical trials before they can be used as standard treatment. The cancer treatments that are used today were developed and tested in clinical trials.
Types of clinical trials
Cancer treatment trials
Cancer treatment trials are the most common type of clinical trial involving people with cancer. These trials usually compare new cancer treatments with ones that already exist.
Cancer prevention trials
Cancer prevention trials look for ways to reduce the risk of developing cancer or preventing it from coming back. These trials test how useful certain medicines, vitamins, minerals or other supplements are or whether exercise, quitting smoking, eating more vegetables and fruit or other lifestyle choices help to prevent cancer.
Cancer screening trials
Cancer screening trials evaluate the best ways to detect cancer, especially in its early stages. In some cancers, finding cancer early can improve the results of treatment and increase the chances of survival. Screening trials may study new medical imaging methods or a new type of blood test that would detect cancer clues. These trials usually involve people who may be at higher-than-average risk of developing cancer.
Quality-of-life trials study how to improve comfort levels and quality of life for people with cancer and cancer survivors. These trials may look at better ways to prevent or manage nausea, fatigue, depression, pain or other problems caused by cancer or its treatment.
Possible benefits from taking part in a clinical trial
- You will receive state-of-the-art cancer care.
- You may be among the first to benefit from a new and effective treatment.
- You may undergo an effective new treatment that has fewer side effects than standard treatment for your type and stage of cancer.
- You will come in contact with a wide range of health professionals and may benefit from extra follow-up care often provided for participants.
- Whatever the outcome of the trial, you are helping scientists answer important questions about cancer. These answers may contribute new knowledge about cancer and eventually help others with the disease.
Possible risks from taking part in a clinical trial
- There’s no guarantee that any treatment – new or standard – will produce positive results.
- The new treatment or approach being studied may not be as good as the standard cancer treatment you would receive outside the clinical trial.
- There may be side effects that are worse than those associated with standard treatments.
- Taking part in a trial, especially one that lasts for years, may be time consuming and inconvenient. You may require extra tests or medication and be asked to keep records or fill out detailed health questionnaires.
What you need to know before participating
What is the trial’s protocol?
A protocol describes a study, explains how it will be conducted and how the participants’ safety will be protected. It outlines:
- how many people will take part in the trial
- what medical tests they will have and how often
- how long the trial will last
- what type of treatment will be given and how often
- what side effects might occur during the study
What are the eligibility criteria?
Each clinical trial enrolls people who are alike so that the study’s results will be scientifically valid. The rules about who is eligible help your doctor to determine if the trial is suitable for you. Your eligibility may depend on:
- your age and sex
- your type of cancer
- what stage the disease has reached
- whether or not the cancer has spread to other parts of your body
- if the cancer has spread, where it has gone
- your overall health and whether you are being treated for other medical problems
- whether you have had any previous cancer treatment
- how close you live to the cancer centre or hospital where the treatment will be given
Questions to ask
If you‘re thinking about taking part, it’s important to ask the right questions. Ask to see any information about the study, read this material carefully and jot down any questions that come to mind. Here are some questions you might want to ask:
About the purpose of the clinical trial
- What is the purpose of the study?
- Why do researchers believe the new treatment being tested may be effective?
- Has it been tested before?
- Who sponsors the study?
- Who has reviewed and approved it? (for example, Health Canada or a research ethics board)
About the possible risks and benefits to you
- What is the standard treatment for my type of cancer?
- What is likely to happen in my case with or without this new research treatment?
- What are the possible short-term and long-term risks, side effects and benefits to me?
- How do these compare with standard treatment?
About your care
- What kinds of treatment, medical tests or procedures will I receive during the study?
- How do they compare with what I would receive if I do not take part in the study?
- How often and for how long will I receive the treatment?
- How long will I need to remain in the study?
- Where will my treatment take place?
- How will I know if the treatment is working?
- Who will be in charge of my care?
- Will I be able to see my own doctor?
- Will there be follow-up after the study? For how long?
About personal issues
- Will the study require extra time, work or expenses on my part?
- If I need to travel, will my expenses be paid?
- What does my family need to know about the treatment? Can they help?
- Can I talk to other people who are in this study?
- What support is there in the community for me and my family?
Funding clinical trials
The Canadian Cancer Society funds clinical trials in Canada mainly through its support of the Canadian Cancer Trials Group (CCTG), which is based at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario.
Its mandate is to develop, conduct and analyze national and international trials of cancer therapy, including trials for new cancer drugs, cancer prevention and supportive care, and also to improve quality of life for people with cancer.
In 2016-2017, we invested $4.8 million in CCTG, which is the only Canadian cancer trials group that conducts the entire range of clinical trials across all cancer types. In that year, CCTG led or was involved in 113 active trials relating to more than 20 different cancer types.
These trials took place across 94 cancer centres reaching communities all across Canada. 16,682 Canadian patients were involved in these trials since they began and 1,145 Canadian patients were enrolled in 2016.
How to find clinical trials
When you want to find out more about specific clinical trials, e-mail us or call our Cancer Information Service toll-free at 1 888 939-3333.
Our national, bilingual toll-free service offers detailed information about cancer and community resources to cancer patients, their families, the general public and healthcare professionals. A trained information specialist can give you information about clinical trials before you talk to your doctor and help you find a clinical trial that might be suitable for you or someone you care about.
You may also search for trials through the following sites:
Canadian Cancer Trials
On this site, search for a trial by:
- Cancer type
- Trial centre
US National Cancer Institute
On this site search for trials in the U.S. and Canada. Information is tailored for patients and health professionals.
© 2021 Canadian Cancer Society All rights reserved. Registered charity: 118829803 RR 0001
Printed: March 2, 2021
The information that the Canadian Cancer Society provides does not replace your relationship with your doctor. The information is for your general use, so be sure to talk to a qualified healthcare professional before making medical decisions or if you have questions about your health. We do our best to make sure that the information we provide is accurate and reliable but cannot guarantee that it is error-free or complete. The Canadian Cancer Society is not responsible for the quality of the information or services provided by other organizations and mentioned on cancer.ca, nor do we endorse any service, product, treatment or therapy.