Clinical Trials

About Clinical Trials

Every year in the UK, many people take part in clinical trials and every trial is reviewed by an Ethics Committee before being allowed to take place. All trials are designed so risk to those taking part is kept to a minimum. Each trial has strict criteria, relating to those people allowed and suitable to take part and everyone on a trial is monitored carefully, with safety and well-being a priority. Anyone taking part can withdraw from a trial at any time and it will not affect your NHS treatment programme. Results of a trial are made available to those taking part.

Clinical trials are organised into four phases, of which Phases 2 and 3 are perhaps the most relevant. Phase 2 trials normally recruit a relatively small number of patients (typically 50–100) in order to establish whether the new drug/method is showing some useful activity. Phase 3 trials recruit a much larger number of patients that could run into thousands.

Patients are divided into different ‘arms’ of a study: those receiving the new drug or treatment method and those having standard treatment (the ‘control arm’). In ‘blind’ or ‘double-blind’ randomised trials even the doctor may not know which arm the patient is on.

Trials are run across many of the teaching hospitals of the UK. An individual trial may be recruiting across different UK trials units, as well as worldwide. So, it is important to find the trial unit that is most conveniently located to you, and to check whether or not any travel expenses are paid.

     Advantages and disadvantages

    • Even if you are on the control arm, you will be receiving the very best conventional treatment, which will be monitored closely – perhaps more closely than if you were not on the trial programme, and by some of the best specialists in the field.
    • You may, however, have to set time aside for regular travel to a more distant centre than your local hospital, but in some cases all expenses are covered.
    • You will need to be happy with the fact that the treatment may be 'blinded', i.e. you may not know on which arm of the trial you have been placed.

How to get on a Trial

From the website addresses below, select ‘prostate cancer’ in the search box and find a suitable trial. In the first instance it is best to request your GP to forward your name to the appropriate unit for evaluation. The trials website is not always up to date, so it is worth a call to the unit to ensure the trial is still recruiting.

There are a high number of prostate cancer trials currently recruiting and under evaluation, too many to list in this booklet. Comprehensive information about trials and a list of prostate cancer-specific trials can be found on the following website address:

https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/treatment/clinical-trials

or visit the Cancer Research UK website:
https://www.cancerresearchuk.org/about-cancer/find-a-clinical-trial

Should you want to enter a trial, remember you have to fit the trial criteria and need to be referred by either your hospital consultant or GP.