Research - clinical trials
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 cancer and develop new treatments. You will also be carefully monitored during and after the study.
Usually, several hospitals around the country take part in these trials. It's 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 don't have to give a reason. There will be no change in the way that you're 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 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're 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 so you can't 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, and results may not be available for many years. 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 trials for ovarian cancer
Women who are newly diagnosed with ovarian cancer may be asked to take part in a trial called CHORUS. The trial is looking to see if giving chemotherapy before as well as after surgery helps to improve survival.
You may be asked to take part in a trial using a biological therapy alongside chemotherapy. Two biological therapies - called angiogenesis inhibitors - that can stop cancer from developing new blood vessels, are currently being tested.
A trial called ICON 7 is testing an angiogenesis inhibitor called bevacizumab (Avastin®), which is given as an injection into a drip. This trial is for women who are newly diagnosed and is comparing how effective the standard chemotherapy of carboplatin and Taxol is with and without Avastin.
Another trial, called ICON 6, is testing a newer angiogenesis inhibitor called cediranib, which is a tablet. The trial is for women whose cancer has come back six months or more after they had chemotherapy. Women will be given one of the following treatments:
The standard chemotherapy plus a dummy drug (placebo), then continue to take the dummy drug.
The standard chemotherapy plus cediranib, then switch to a placebo after chemotherapy is finished.
Standard chemotherapy plus cediranib, then continue with cediranib after chemotherapy is finished.
A drug that can make cancer cells sensitive to chemotherapy is being tested for women whose ovarian cancer has come back after initial chemotherapy. The drug, called decitabine, which is given as a drip (infusion), is being given alongside carboplatin chemotherapy.
All the above treatments are in the early stages of research and are not widely available. You can talk to your doctor about any that you think may be appropriate for you.