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What Are Clinical Trials?

Clinical trials are research studies in which patients may volunteer to take part. MD Anderson uses clinical trials to find better ways to prevent, diagnose and treat cancer. Doctors use treatment trials to learn more about how to fight cancer. This guide is for patients who may join a treatment trial.

Clinical trials are part of a long, careful process, which may take many years. First, doctors study a new treatment in the lab. Then they often study the treatment in animals. If a new treatment shows promise, doctors then test the treatment in people. Doctors do this in three to four steps, or phases. Your doctor may offer you a clinical trial as a treatment option. Please use our clinical trials booklet to help you make the best decision for you and your family.

How am I protected?

MD Anderson’s most important job is to protect patients. First, MD Anderson protects patients in clinical trials by following well-planned protocols. 

A protocol:

  • Explains the treatment plan
  • Lists the medical tests patients will receive
  • Gives the number of how many patients will take part in the clinical trial
  • Lists eligibility criteria, which are guidelines to decide who may join the clinical trial
  • Explains safety information

Second, MD Anderson protects patients by using a careful informed consent process.

Third, our Institutional Review Boards (IRBs) protect patients by reviewing protocols and monitoring trials. The IRBs are committees of doctors, nurses, chaplains, social workers, lawyers and patients. They make sure that trials follow federal laws and that patients are protected.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) audits the IRBs’ files. Also, FDA officials may visit MD Anderson at any time and review anything they choose related to clinical trials.


© 2014 The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center