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Clinical trials

Research - clinical trials for soft tissue sarcomas

Cancer research trials are carried out to try to find new and better treatments for cancer. Trials that are carried out on patients are known as clinical trials.

Clinical trials may be carried out to:

test new treatments, such as new chemotherapy drugs, gene therapy or cancer vaccines
look at new combinations of existing treatments, or change the way they are given, to make them more effective or to reduce side effects
compare the effectiveness of drugs used to control symptoms find out how cancer treatments work
see which treatments are the most cost-effective.

Trials are the only reliable way to find out if a different operation, type of chemotherapy, radiotherapy, or other treatment is better than what is already available.

Taking part in a trial

You may be asked to take part in a treatment research trial. There can be many benefits in doing this. Trials help to improve knowledge about sarcomas and develop new treatments. You will be carefully monitored during and after the study. Usually, several hospitals around the country take part in these trials. It is important to bear in mind that some treatments that look promising at first are often later found not to be as good as existing treatments, or to have side effects that outweigh the benefits.

If you decide not to take part in a trial your decision will be respected and you do not have to give a reason. There will be no change in the way that you are treated by the hospital staff and you will be offered the best standard treatment for your situation.

Blood and tumour samples

Many blood samples and bone marrow or tumour biopsies may be taken to help make the right diagnosis. You may be asked for your permission to use some of your samples for research into cancer. If you are taking part in a trial you may also be asked to give other samples which may be frozen and stored for future use, when new research techniques become available. These samples will have your name removed from them (anonymised) so you canít be identified.

The research may be carried out at the hospital where you are treated, or it may be at another hospital. This type of research takes a long time, so you are unlikely to hear the results. The samples will, however, be used to increase knowledge about the causes of cancer and its treatment. This research will, hopefully, improve the outlook for future patients.

Current research

If you have a sarcoma that has spread to another part of the body or come back (recurred) after treatment, you may be asked to take part in a trial using the chemotherapy drugs doxorubicin and ifosfamide. This is a randomised trial and half of the people will be treated with doxorubicin only. The other half will receive a combination of the two drugs.

If you have a leiomyosarcoma that canít be removed with surgery, or has spread to another part of the body, you may be asked to take part in a chemotherapy trial. The trial involves treatment with the chemotherapy drugs gemcitabine (Gemzar®) and docetaxel (Taxotere®).

A biological therapy is being tested as a treatment for people with two rare soft tissue sarcomas that affect the skin. The treatment, called imatinib (Glivec®) is a tyrosine kinase inhibitor and is being given to people with a dermato fibrosarcoma protuberans (DFSP) or a giant cell fibroblastoma (GCF).