The World Health Organisation defines a clinical trial as “any research study that prospectively assigns human participants or groups of humans to one or more health-related interventions to evaluate the effects on health outcomes.” Put simply, a clinical trial is a study that compares responses to different interventions in real settings, to test the effectiveness of medicines or other health measures. Clinical trials are voluntary and are governed by strict rules and ethics.
They are often undertaken in a clinical setting, such as a hospital or outpatient clinic. The participants are usually patients, but they may include former patients and people who are well.
Clinical trials are an important way to improve treatment for people with cancer – and the only way to thoroughly evaluate the effects of a clinical intervention. If a clinical trial proves that a test or treatment is more effective than existing options, it may become the new standard of care for patients in the future. A trial can also identify potential risks and side effects.