Brain tumor clinical trials are research studies to determine the effectiveness of experimental brain tumor treatments. Brain tumor trials usually evaluate new chemotherapy, radiation and biological (immune system) therapies, and may offer patients who haven’t had success with traditional therapies a new type of treatment. Clinical trials can be conducted by a variety of groups, including:
- Pharmaceutical companies
- Research organizations.
Clinical Trial Phases
Investigational pharmaceutical drug clinical trials follow a specific protocol and are divided into three phases. Clinical research of a new drug will pass through these three phases, each of which generally represents a separate clinical trial:
- Phase I: Assesses the safety and correct dosage of a new drug. What are the side effects and safe dosages for this drug?
- Phase II: Determines the effectiveness of the therapy. Does this treatment shrink the brain tumor and increase survival rates?
- Phase III: Compares the new drug to a traditional, already-proven therapy. How does this new therapy compare to the standard treatment?
Once a drug has passed through these three phases, the FDA or another national regulatory agency usually approves it for medical use.
Clinical Trial Types
The National Cancer Institute classifies clinical trials into five categories, depending on the goal of the clinical research:
- Diagnostic trials: Discovering better diagnostic tests and procedures
- Prevention trials: Finding ways to prevent the disease from occurring or recurring, including vaccines, minerals and lifestyle changes
- Quality of life trials: Evaluating methods for improving quality of life
- Screening trials: Determining the best methods for disease detection
- Treatment trials: Testing new treatments, drugs, and surgical and radiation procedures.
Should You Participate in a Clinical Trial?
Brain tumor patients may choose to participate in a clinical trial for various reasons. Many patients are looking for a cure or a way to feel healthier. Some patients enroll to help other people fighting the disease who may benefit from this new research.
No matter your reason, it’s important to ask yourself and your doctors some questions before signing up:
- Has this treatment been evaluated in brain tumor patients yet?
- What are the potential side effects?
- What is the cost of the trial? Will it be covered by insurance?
- What tests, treatments and time commitments are involved?
- Where does the trial take place?
- Which phase is this study in?
- Who is administering the trial?
Examples of Brain Tumor Clinical Trials
Clinical research investigates many different ways to slow the growth of or destroy brain tumors. One recent brain tumor clinical trial is determining the effectiveness of a vaccine coupled with chemotherapy on brain tumor growth in patients with glioblastoma multiforme who have already had surgery. Another study is evaluating the effectiveness of whole brain radiation therapy used in addition to stereotactic radiosurgery for patients with metastatic brain tumors.
How to Find Brain Tumor Trials
First, you must be well-informed about your brain tumor diagnosis, including the tumor’s:
You’ll also need to know your current and past treatment protocols, including prescribed drugs and other treatments. Let your doctor know you are investigating clinical trial options. As you begin your research, some good places to start include:
- Musella Foundation for Brain Tumor Research and Information
- National Cancer Institute
- U.S. National Institutes of Health website, www.clinicaltrials.gov.
Mayo Clinic Staff. (2008). Brain tumor. Retrieved April 16, 2010, from the Mayo Clinic website: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/brain-tumor/DS00281/DSECTION=treatments-and-drugs.
Mayo Clinic Staff. (n.d.). Brain tumors. Retrieved April 17, 2010, from the Mayo Clinic website: http://www.mayoclinic.org/brain-tumors/clintrials.html.
National Brain Tumor Society Staff. (n.d.). Clinical trials FAQ. Retrieved April 17, 2010, from the National Brain Tumor Society website: http://www.braintumor.org/ClinicalTrialsFAQ/.