Clinical trials give patients access to new drugs under testing. Such drugs have already been through testing on cells in test tubes and on animal subjects. If a drug looks promising, human testing is then needed to determine if the drug is safe and effective for people. In a clinical trial the patients serve as subjects in a controlled experiment.
Sometimes, as happened dramatically for imatinib (Gleevec), the drug proves effective and adequately safe, and the benefit to the patient is immediately clear. Other times the drug does not work out, and there is no benefit to the patient, or even harm from side effects or unanticipated consequences.
Patients considering entering clinical trials must weigh for their own cases whether the potential benefits are worth the potential risks. This involves asking plenty of questions, reading all the trial conditions carefully, and making an informed decision. For an excellent discussion, as well as a summary of the basic types of trials, please see Dr. James E. Turner’s piece Informed Consent in this section of our website.
GSI has compiled a list of current clinical trials relevant to GIST in the section Current Trials. You can use the list online at that section.
The Coalition of Cancer Cooperative Groups maintains a website with lots of information about cancer trials.
The US National Institutes of Health (NIH) maintains a very useful website concerning clinical trials at this home link: http://www.clinicaltrials.gov Explanatory sections describing the types of trials and how they work are under the resources section of the NIH site (above), which also includes a glossary of medical terms used in trials.
The National Cancer Institute maintains a clinical trials website at this link: http://www.cancer.gov/clinicaltrials
The NCI also has helpful information about evaluating trials at this link: http://www.cancer.gov/clinicaltrials/learning
To find trials relevant to GIST in the USA, you can search the NIH or NCI websites listed above. Sometimes individual cancer research hospitals run their own one-facility trials, and these can be found on the websites of the individual research institutions. Links to these institutions are provided in the final section of our Current Trials page.
In addition, the International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers and Associations has a website called IFPMA Clinical Trials Portal where you can locate trials.