Head and Neck Cancer

Cancer 101: Cancer Explained

Are clinical trials (research studies) available for patients with head and neck cancers?

Clinical trials are research studies conducted with people who volunteer to take part. Participation in clinical trials is an option for many patients with head and neck cancers.

Treatment trials are designed to find more effective cancer treatments and better ways to use current treatments. In some studies, all patients receive the new treatment. In others, doctors compare different therapies by giving the new treatment to one group of patients and standard therapy to another group. Doctors are studying new types and schedules for delivering radiation therapy, new anticancer drugs, new drug combinations, and new ways of combining treatments. They are also studying ways to treat head and neck cancers using biological therapy (a type of treatment that stimulates the immune system to fight cancer) by itself or in combination with anticancer drugs or radiation therapy.

Scientists are also conducting clinical trials to find better ways to reduce the side effects of chemotherapy and radiation therapy for head and neck cancers. These clinical trials, called supportive care trials, explore ways to improve the comfort and quality of life of cancer patients and cancer survivors.

People interested in taking part in a clinical trial should talk with their doctor. Information about clinical trials is available from the CIS (see below) and the NCI booklet Taking Part in Clinical Trials: What Cancer Patients Need To Know. This booklet describes how research studies are carried out and explains their possible benefits and risks. In addition, the NCI's Web site, http://www.cancer.gov on the Internet, provides information about clinical trials. It also offers detailed information about specific ongoing studies by linking to PDQ, a cancer information database developed by NCI. The CIS also provides information from PDQ.

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