• Measuring Patient Care


    Clinical Trials

    What are clinical trials and what can they teach us?

    A clinical trial is a type of research study that tests how well new approaches to cancer work in people. These studies test new methods of screening, prevention, diagnosis, or treatment. Clinical trials answer questions that advance our understanding of cancer, help find better ways to ease pain and control side effects, and identify new methods to detect cancers early.

    Annual clinical trials statistics for 2009

    Adult (Dana-Farber/Brigham and Women's Cancer Center)

    • 418 open protocols
    • 1812 participants enrolled
    • 177 open protocols
    • 8875 participants enrolled

    Pediatric (Dana-Farber/Children's Hospital)

    • 67 open protocols
    • 95 participants enrolled
    • 37 open protocols
    • 263 participants enrolled


    Therapeutic: Clinical trials with therapeutic intent using drugs, radiation, surgery, other biological agents, or behavioral or other interventions. These are trials in which an agent or other intervention is used with the intention to cure cancer or to prolong the life of the patient.

    Non-therapeutic: Studies not specifically intended to cure cancer or prolong life. They can include interventions for cancer diagnosis, prevention, or supportive care. These studies may also involve collecting blood and tissue samples or information from questionnaires.

    Open protocols: Studies that have completed an extensive review and approval process and are enrolling participants. For 2009, the number of open protocols is the number of protocols open at any time for enrollment during calendar year 2009. A protocol in the context used here is an experiment or study seeking to answer a scientific question. The question may relate for example to treatment for a specific disease or evaluation of quality of life of a particular subset of patients.

    We use the word "participant" instead of "patient" because protocols are investigational studies. The participants are volunteers in an experiment and they are informed about this through the informed consenting process.

    Adult trials include all studies open to adult registrations. These trials may also permit pediatric registrations. Pediatric trials include studies open to pediatric registrations (usually 18 years or younger) only.

    Learn more about clinical trials at Dana-Farber and nationwide.

    Entering a Clinical Trial: Is It Right for You?  

    Dana-Farber, in collaboration with Brigham and Women's Hospital, Massachusetts General Hospital, and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, has produced a video and educational booklet to dispel common misconceptions about clinical trials.

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