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Office of Cancer Complementary and Alternative Medicine (OCCAM)
Last Updated: 11/09/12

Clinical Trials


What are clinical trials?

A clinical trial is one of the final stages of a long and careful cancer research process. Studies include cancer patients to find out whether promising approaches to cancer prevention, diagnosis, and treatment are safe and effective.

What are the different types of clinical trials?

  • Treatment trials test new treatments (like a new cancer drug, new approaches to surgery or radiation therapy, new combinations of treatments, or new methods such as gene therapy). See Taking Part in Cancer Treatment Research Studies.
  • Prevention trials test new approaches, such as medicines, vitamins, minerals, or other supplements that doctors believe may lower the risk of a certain type of cancer. These trials look for the best way to prevent cancer in people who have never had cancer or to prevent cancer from coming back or a new cancer occurring in people who have already had cancer. See Understanding Prevention Trials for additional information.
  • Screening trials test the best way to find cancer, especially in its early stages.
  • Quality of Life trials (also called Supportive Care trials) explore ways to improve comfort and quality of life for cancer patients.

Currently, what cancer clinical trials are the NCI and medical community sponsoring involving CAM modalities?

Cancer CAM clinical trials are listed in NCI’s PDQ ® (Physician Data Query) computer database of clinical trials. It currently includes approximately 10,000 abstracts of trials that are open and approved to accept patients. Active trials are augmented with a summary listing of organizations where the trial is taking place and principal investigators.

PDQ® is used by health professionals and patients alike and may be searched a number of ways including by diagnosis, treatment modality, phase, locality, drug name, state/province, city, country, or a combination of these variables. Abstracts are written in two formats: health professional (using technical terminology) and patient (using layman’s terms).