Cancer research trials are carried out to try to find new and better treatments for cancer. Trials which patients take part in 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, in order to make them more effective or to reduce side effects
- compare the effectiveness of drugs used for symptom control
- 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 the development of new treatments. You’ll also be carefully monitored during and after the study. Usually, several hospitals around the country take part in trials.
As bone cancers are rare, trials are usually organised by specialists from many countries working together, and may take years to complete. Clinical trials for osteosarcoma and Ewing’s sarcoma are especially important so that more people can be cured of them.
EURAMOS 1 trial
If you have an osteosarcoma that can be removed by surgery you may be asked to take part in the EURAMOS 1 trial. The trial is looking at giving different chemotherapy drugs after surgery to reduce the risk of the cancer coming back. The chemotherapy drugs usually used after surgery are methotrexate , doxorubicin (which is also called Adriamycin) and cisplatin.
This combination is known as MAP. Some of the people in the trial will be given MAP following their operation, others will be given MAP plus the chemotherapy drugs ifosfamide and etoposide (MAPIE), and some will be given MAP with the biological therapy drug interferon (MAPifn). The trial will be running until 2010 so it will be some time before we know which treatment combination is the best for treating osteosarcoma.
Euro-Ewing 99 trial
If you have a Ewing’s sarcoma you may be asked to take part in the Euro-Ewing 99 trial. People with a Ewing’s sarcoma are usually treated with chemotherapy first, followed by surgery, radiotherapy and more chemotherapy. The Euro-Ewing 99 trial is looking at using different combinations of chemotherapy and high-dose treatment with a stem cell transplant. Your doctor or specialist nurse will explain the different treatments if this trial is appropriate to you.
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. Some samples may be frozen and stored for future use when new research techniques become available.
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.