Clinical trials or research into new medicines and treatment approaches, are a vital part of our mission as an academic medical center. An active participant in national cancer research, the Thoracic Cancer Program team provides many patients with access to new therapies through clinical trials. These studies evaluate the latest chemotherapies for lung cancer, the best surgical approaches, radiation techniques, interventional radiology and combinations of these therapies.
Clinical trials try to determine which therapies, treatments and approaches work best, and there are always risks involved in any trial. Research tends to achieve small advances, which build over time.
Our specialists are national leaders in helping design and execute many national research studies.
Current and Recent Studies
Medical Oncology (Chemotherapy): Chemotherapy studies are being conducted almost continuously, so there are opportunities for patients to receive new chemotherapy drugs as part of clinical studies for almost every stage of lung cancer. These drugs of the future are not otherwise available in the community. Patients with lung cancer are especially encouraged to explore clinical trials.
Our medical oncologists are involved in designing national research studies. They also participate in other studies that look at the role of chemotherapy in treating lung cancer. The Thoracic Cancer Program team belongs to several cancer cooperative groups, where large cancer centers nationally have joined together to be part of a network to carry out large clinical studies.
Studies examine such questions as what different combinations of chemotherapy drugs work best; what combinations of chemotherapy and radiation therapy work best; how many drugs to combine; how frequently to give treatments and more. Many of the trials we participate in are Phase II studies, which are close to being approved as standard treatments. We also participate in many Phase III trials, which test standard accepted treatments against one another or test a standard treatment against something a bit newer. See Clinical Trials Basics to learn more.
Radiation Therapy: The department of radiation oncology has several ongoing studies evaluating new technologies and appropriate use of new technologies in a clinical setting for radiation treatment planning and delivery. There are several ongoing studies evaluating the appropriate schedule and dose of radiation with standard techniques. Additionally, studies are being conducted to study the most effective way to combine radiation with chemotherapy and surgery.
The focuses of clinical studies in radiation oncology are to improve cancer control, to minimize the unwanted side effects of treatment, and improve treatment efficiency.
Surgery: Removing less of a lung or wedge resection vs. lobectomy. Much like breast cancer treatment has evolved away from mastectomies toward lumpectomies, studies are examining if taking out less of the lung can be as effective as a complete lobectomy.
Giving chemotherapy and radiation to shrink certain tumors before removing them surgically. Our results for operating after chemo and radiation have been good and our complication rates have been lower than expected. Those results are being reviewed to understand why are complications rates are so low.
Radiology: A Korean study demonstrated that injecting a small amount of iodinated dye into a very small lesion can help doctors find it more easily to perform a wedge resection. Our radiologists, because they are in touch with the latest research all over the world, began performing this procedure to help improve accuracy and patient care.
Interventional Radiology: Comparing the effectiveness of RFA (radiofrequency ablation) in patients with early stage lung cancer who are unable to have surgery.
Types of Clinical Trials
Phase I trials involve brand new drugs or treatments. These trials represent a minority of studies and are mainly suggested for patients who have failed other treatments or have cancer known to have little response to standard treatments. These studies test mainly for side effects.
Phase II trials test effectiveness of a newer treatment and how it may rank other treatments.
Phase III trials are the most sophisticated. They test one established effective treatment strategy against another that appears to be comparable to see which is better. Both of these treatment possibilities would likely benefit patients, but investigators truly do not know which is better until the trial is completed and analyzed.
To learn more about how clinical trials work, visit the National Comprehensive Cancer Network’s website.