Advancing the Diagnosis, Treatment, and Prevention of Cancer
When you come to NewYork-Presbyterian for cancer care, you'll have access to the latest treatments as well as options that are based on the most promising discoveries in cancer research. These investigational approaches are available through clinical trials. Virtually every advance ever made in the management of cancer — from new treatments to diagnostic methods to prevention strategies — has been assessed in a clinical trial. These important studies are conducted by investigators at the Herbert Irving Comprehensive Cancer Center of Columbia University and the Weill Cornell Medicine Meyer Cancer Center. Many of our physicians have led the development and evaluation of cancer treatments that are now the standard of care across the world.
For some people, a clinical trial offers them hope when other treatments have not worked. Other people participate in clinical trials to help researchers gather information about the effectiveness of a new screening test or to observe the effects of cancer and cancer therapies on quality of life. Your doctor will talk to you about clinical trials as an option for your treatment, and your decision to participate in one of these studies is entirely voluntary.
Are Clinical Trials Safe?
Many people wonder if it is safe to receive a new treatment that is being tested in a clinical trial. Patient safety is our number one concern. You can rest assured that a number of measures have been put in place to ensure your safety.
- By the time a new therapy has made it to the clinical trials stage, it has already been through extensive laboratory testing to determine its safety and potential effectiveness in patients.
- All clinical trials must be designed and conducted according to strict patient safety guidelines that are monitored by the federal government.
- A committee called the Institutional Review Board (IRB) at each hospital must approve every clinical trial before it can begin enrolling participants.
- If you are considering a clinical trial, a member of your care team will go over a detailed consent form with you which describes the study's goals and what you can expect as a participant, including any possible side effects. We make sure you understand everything being presented to you before you make a decision.
Types of Clinical Trials
Clinical trials enable investigators to answer important questions about how to care for people with cancer. There are different types of studies that researchers use to address these questions.
- Treatment studies evaluate the safety and effectiveness of new medications, new combinations of existing medications, or potentially better ways to perform surgery and other procedures, compared to current cancer treatments.
- Prevention studies assess better ways to prevent cancer or its recurrence.
- Diagnostic studies look for improved methods of diagnosing cancer or its recurrence.
- Quality of life studies explore strategies to improve comfort and quality of life for people with cancer.
Phases of Clinical Trials
If a clinical trial is described to you, you may hear the word "phase." This indicates the stage of testing. Your care team will explain the phase of the study you may be considering.
- Phase 1 studies are the earliest stage of testing in people and focus on whether an innovative approach is safe.
- Phase 2 clinical trials continue to assess safety and also look at how effective a new treatment is.
- Phase 3 studies compare the effectiveness of an investigational treatment to an existing therapy.
- Phase 4 studies are less common but are sometimes conducted to evaluate the long-term safety or impact of a treatment that has already been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
Visit the Columbia University Herbert Irving Comprehensive Cancer Center Clinical Trials Office
Visit the Weill Cornell Medicine Meyer Cancer Center Clinical Trials Office
Your Clinical Trial Team
It takes a dedicated team to conduct a clinical trial. Your team is united in making sure participants are safe, comfortable, and informed about all parts of the study. Each clinical trial is directed by a principal investigator, who is a medical doctor or other healthcare professional. There may also be co-investigators. Together they lead a team that includes nurses, research study assistants, and other healthcare professionals who work together to carry out the study properly and in the safest manner. They greatly appreciate your participation and take good care of you.
Do I Have to Participate in a Clinical Trial?
No, participation in a clinical trial is entirely up to you. There is no obligation whatsoever. Through the informed consent process, we will describe the study and answer any questions you may have so you have all the information you need to make a decision. And even if you enroll in a study and then change your mind, that is okay, too. You can drop out at any time.
The Benefits of Being in a Clinical Trial
You may receive a promising new treatment early in its development that could be more effective than existing therapies. Even when a new treatment is not as effective as hoped, clinical trials still generate valuable data for medical research. Regardless of the outcome, when you participate in a clinical trial, you contribute to our understanding of cancer and provide investigators with knowledge that may help other patients in the future.
At NewYork-Presbyterian, our patients have access to a wide range of clinical trials for every type and stage of cancer, including rare phase 1 studies not widely available elsewhere. Weill Cornell Medicine and Columbia University researchers are making groundbreaking discoveries that have the potential to change the course of cancer care. Our doctors design and lead their own clinical trials to evaluate new approaches that were developed here. NYP physicians are also part of multicenter research groups — such as the Alliance for Clinical Trials in Oncology, the NRG Oncology Group, and the Children’s Oncology Group (COG) – which bring clinical trials from around the nation to NYP. If you are considering participating in a clinical trial, we know it is an important decision. Your cancer care team is here to address your concerns so you can make the best decision for you. Check out our current clinical trials and please feel free to reach out with any questions you may have.