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The Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center

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What You Need to Know About Clinical Trials

Many of today’s most effective diagnostic tests and emerging therapies started as clinical trials – research studies that help determine whether new treatments are safe, effective and better than existing treatments.

In fact, recent advances in cancer diagnosis and treatment are helping to improve the survival rate of patients with cancer.

“Patients enrolled in a clinical trial have access to promising new treatments before they are widely available,” says Julie Brahmer, M.D., a board certified medical oncologist and director of The Lung Cancer Program at the Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center.

Patients with cancer and their caregivers may be interested in learning more about open clinical trials and their eligibility criteria.

Recent Developments in Diagnosing and Treating Lung Cancer

The most effective lung cancer treatments occur when the cancer is caught early and confined to the lung. However, lung cancer is difficult to detect and diagnose early. The disease usually has no noticeable symptoms until it’s in an advanced stage and hard to control.

Over the past decade, though, a number of clinical trials have led to major advancements in diagnosing and treating lung cancer, improving the odds of survival:

  • Lung cancer screening: Results from a massive clinical trial funded by the U.S. government found that annual screenings for patients at high risk of developing lung cancer improve the overall survival rate. Today, more patients are finding out they have lung cancer when it’s in early stages and still treatable. 
  • Immunotherapy: Cancer immunotherapy trains the body’s immune system to recognize and destroy cancer cells, resulting in better outcomes, according to a study published in The New England Journal of Medicine.
  • Epigenetic therapy: At Johns Hopkins, researchers are investigating the effects of drugs and other epigenome-influencing techniques to treat patients who have lung cancer. Epigenetic therapy slows or stops the growth of tumors by switching on certain genes to fight cancer cells, leading to improved results with treatment. 

Other treatments doctors and researchers are currently studying include:

  • New chemotherapy drugs
  • Advanced surgical and radiation techniques
  • Novel biological therapies

Questions to Ask Your Doctor

These are some questions to ask your doctor to learn more about a clinical trial:

  • Why is this study being done, and what are the goals?
  • What are the eligibility criteria for the trial, and do I meet those criteria?
  • What are the potential side effects of the new treatment, and are there steps in place to treat side effects?
  • What are my other treatment options (other clinical trials or standard treatments), and how do they compare?
  • If I want to stop the study early, what happens next?

Learn more about research and clinical trials at Johns Hopkins Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center.