Alegent Creighton Health participates in over 50 cancer clinical trials to find better ways to prevent, diagnose and treat cancer. Doctors use clinical trials to learn more about how to fight cancer. In addition to the long term gains, patients can gain in the short term, too.Through clinical research, physicians at Alegent Creighton Health are able to offer their patients innovative, emerging treatments that are not currently available.

Participants in clinical trials play an active role in their own healthcare, gain access to new research treatments before they are widely available and help others by contributing to medical knowledge. But with trials can come many questions. As the patient, it is your decision whether to take part in a clinical trial. Ask as many questions as you need to ask until you feel comfortable with the answers you have received. Some questions you might consider are:

What are my treatment options?

Your treatment options are one of the most important conversations you should have once diagnosed with cancer. Two very broad categories of treatment are:

Standard treatment: There are standard treatments or “best” treatment protocols for most types of cancer. Standard treatment guidelines change over time as doctors learn from experience and research.

Clinical trials: A clinical trial is the research to answer specific questions about how to best treat a patient. Cancer is an area where we offer many clinical trials, as there are many different types of cancers and treatments.

Both standard treatment and clinical trials may involve chemotherapy, surgery, radiation, or a combination of treatments. Often, clinical trials can simply be treating a patient with standard treatment in combination with a new drug, different dosing of a drug(s), or new treatment schedules. These options all vary depending on the type of trial.

What is a clinical trial?

A clinical trial (also clinical research) is a research study in human volunteers to answer specific health questions. Carefully conducted clinical trials are the fastest and safest way to find treatments that work in people.

Why participate in a clinical trial?

Participants in clinical trials can play a more active role in their own healthcare, gain access to new research treatments before they are widely available, and help others by contributing to medical research.

Who can participate in a clinical trial?

All clinical trials have guidelines about who can participate. Using inclusion/exclusion criteria is an important principle of medical research that helps to produce reliable results. The factors that allow someone to participate in a clinical trial are called "inclusion criteria" and those that disallow someone from participating are called "exclusion criteria". These criteria are based on such factors as age, gender, the type and stage of a disease, previous treatment history, and other medical conditions. Before joining a clinical trial, a participant must qualify for the study. It is important to note that inclusion and exclusion criteria are not used to reject people personally. Instead, the criteria are used to identify appropriate participants and keep them safe. The criteria help ensure that researchers will be able to answer the questions they plan to study and produce the most benefit for all parties involved.

What happens during a clinical trial?

The clinical trial process depends on the kind of trial being conducted. The clinical trial team includes doctors and nurses as well as other healthcare professionals. They check the health of the participant at the beginning of the trial, give specific instructions for participating in the trial, monitor the participant carefully during the trial, and stay in touch after the trial is completed.

Some clinical trials involve more tests and doctor visits than the participant would normally have for their traditional cancer treatment. For all types of trials, the participant works with a research team. Clinical trial participation is most successful when the protocol is carefully followed and there is frequent contact with the research staff. The frequent visits are not meant to be a burden, but a way to ensure our patients are receiving the best care and comfort possible.

What are the risks and benefits of a clinical trial?

Each clinical trial is unique and has different benefits and risks. Some of the benefits of participating in a clinical trial are:

  • If the new treatment works, you can be one of the first to benefit
  • By being a part of research, you are helping future cancer patients see better and more effective treatment options
  • Some aspects are funded by our organization, meaning less cost to you
  • Patients do not have to leave home to have access to the most advanced medicines and treatments available

Some possible risks include:

  • Side effects may be worse than those of the standard treatment.
  • Side effects may occur that the doctor does not expect.
  • New treatments do not always turn out to be better than, or as good as, standard treatment.
  • All people are different, and our bodies can respond uniquely. Unfortunately, the new treatment may not work for you even if it works for others.

How do I join a clinical trial?

  1. To find a clinical trial that is right for you, visit our available trials on the Missouri Valley Cancer Consortium (MVCC) site: MVCC Clinical Trials
  2. Contact our Nurse Navigators at 402-717-CARE.
  3. We'll discuss your interests and determine if you will qualify for the study.
  4. For more information about participating in Clinical Trials see the NCI brochure.

If you have any questions about clinical trials with Alegent Creighton Health or would like to learn more, please call our Nurse Navigators at 402-717-CARE or send them an email at cancer@Alegent Creighton.org.