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Clinical Trials

What Are Clinical Trials?

Clinical trials test experimental and innovative ways to treat cancer. These research trials (also called clinical studies) investigate new cancer drugs and their schedules, radiation therapies, different combinations of treatments, and complementary and alternative medicine.

The clinical studies offered to Group Health members have been extensively evaluated before they are available to enroll patients. These experimental treatments might be better, as good, or worse than the treatments normally provided for your type of cancer.   

At Group Health Medical Centers, we conduct oncology clinical trials in our clinical facilities in collaboration with research organizations such as the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance (SCCA), Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, Swedish Medical Center, and national cooperative groups. These clinical trials are often referred to by their initials (for example, SWOG, PSOC, GOG, and NSABP).

Why Take Part in a Clinical Trial?

When someone has cancer, clinical trials may be an option. As with any treatment option, a clinical trial has possible benefits as well as drawbacks.

Clinical trials might assign participants to groups receiving different treatment — called randomization. This helps make sure that unknown factors — (such as biases for one type of treatment over another) do not affect trial results.

Clinical trials follow very specific rules (protocol) to determine whether a patient is eligible, usually based on the type or phase of their cancer. The protocol also explains what treatment will be administered and what tests patients receive.

Clinical trials enroll patients according to a set schedule, so different trials may be available at any given time.

Getting Care While in a Clinical Trial

If you are a patient at Group Health Medical Centers and have enrolled in one of our clinical trials, you will continue to receive care with your cancer care team.

You will receive the same patient-centered quality of care, whether or not you participate in a study.

You can decide to leave the study at any time and for any reason — just let your cancer care team know. The research team might want to follow-up after you've left the study. They will want to see if you've had any long-term effects from the treatment you received while in the study.

For More Information

Talk to your care team to see if there's a clinical trial that might be right for you and how you can enroll. If you meet the study qualifications enrolling in a clinical trial is voluntary and your choice.

Your doctor and other care team members can tell you about the risks and benefits of participating. Participants will need to sign a detailed consent form that describes the clinical trial.

Some of the costs may not be covered by your health plan. Get as much information as possible from the care team, and contact Customer Service to clarify what your specific insurance plan covers. Your family and care team can help you think through your decision.

Because of Group Health's commitment to and experience in cancer care and research, we can offer our patients clinical trials in conjunction with the best possible standard of care.

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