National Research Opportunities Close to Home

Cancer Clinical Research

The team of physicians at Northeast Oncology Associates (NOA) offers cancer patients in Northeastern Pennsylvania the opportunity to participate in cancer clinical research trials sponsored by the National Cancer Institute (NCI). Cancer patients can benefit from these cutting edge therapies conveniently close to home.

Why should patients choose a facility that is accredited to participate in cancer treatment research trials?

Physicians who offer NCI studies have access to the newest, most advanced treatment protocols available in the country for cancer treatment. Facilities that offer such state-of-the-science research must meet very high standards not demanded in nonparticipating institutions. Patients who wish to benefit from these cancer clinical trials may do so only in an institution accredited by the National Cancer Institute.

What experience do NOA physicians have with cancer clinical research trials?

NOA physicians have participated as Principal Investigators in cancer research trials in Northeastern Pennsylvania for over 20 years through the Radiation Therapy Oncology Group (RTOG), sponsored by NCI. The research team has been recognized nationally for the outstanding quality of its research. More than 700 people have participated and benefited from these research studies.

What are cancer clinical trials?

Clinical trials are medical research studies involving people. Cancer clinical trials are designed to find new and better ways to help prevent, detect or treat cancer. Improvements in cancer treatment are the most common subject of clinical research trials. In these studies, scientists seek to determine if new treatments are safe and effective, and if they are more effective than standard treatments. These cancer studies test many types of treatments, such as new drugs or vaccines, new approaches to surgery or radiation therapy, or new combinations of existing treatments. Cancer treatments currently being given, known as standard treatments, are often the result of earlier clinical trials. In turn, today's standard treatments may be the basis for new clinical trials to find better ways to treat the disease.

Who is eligible to participate in clinical trials?

Clinical trials are available for most types and stages of cancer. Patients are offered participation in a clinical trial only if their cancer physician finds they meet the eligibility criteria. For eligible patients, the decision to participate in a trial ultimately rests with the patient. People participate only after they have received comprehensive information about the trial and have decided voluntarily to be part of the study.

How are clinical trials monitored?

There are two groups that design and monitor cancer clinical trials:

  • The National Cancer Institute: Through a network known as the Clinical Trials Cooperative Group Program, NCI supports cancer research for all types and phases of clinical trials. Currently, ten different cooperative groups focus on different areas of concern. They work with NCI to identify important cancer questions an d then design, conduct, and monitor clinical trials throughout the country in hospital and clinic settings to answer those questions.
  • Pharmaceutical companies: Pharmaceutical companies also design, conduct and monitor research trials for new cancer control drugs, devices, and other products the company is investigating.

What clinical trials are offered through NOA?

Physicians at NOA participate primarily in NCI Trials and also offer pharmaceutical trials. These trials all include radiation therapy as a component of the investigation. In addition to treatment trials, studies also look at cancer prevention and early detection, as well as ways to improve the quality of life for people who have cancer.

What are the different phases of cancer clinical trials?

Clinical Trials are usually classified into one of three phases:

  • Phase I trials are the initial studies with people to evaluate how a new drug or therapy should be given, how often, and what dose is safe. A ph ase I trial usually enrolls only a small number of patients, sometimes as few as a dozen.
  • Phase II trials continue to test the safety of the drug or therapy, and begin to evaluate how well the new treatment works. Phase II studies usually focus on a particular type of cancer.
  • Phase III trials test a new drug, a new combination of drugs, or a new surgical or radiation therapy procedure compared to the current standard. A patient usually will be assigned to the standard group or the new group at random (called randomization). Phase III trials often enroll large numbers of people and may be conducted at many doctors' offices, clinics, and cancer centers nationwide. Trials offered by physicians at the NOA facilities are primarily Phase III trials.