Importance of Clinical Trials

Pictured: Tanya Trippett Pediatric oncologist and clinical researcher Tanya Trippett talks with a young adult patient and family.

Through a clinical trial at Memorial Sloan Kettering, your child may have access to new approaches to treating cancer that may be more effective than the current best or standard treatments.

Many of the pediatric cancer treatments used today were proven safe and effective through clinical trials in the past. Just as your child may benefit from the results of previous clinical trials, the results of current clinical trials may advance the care of children diagnosed with cancer now or in the future, leading to improved treatments with the possibility of fewer short- and long-term side effects.

Keeping Your Child Safe

Our first and most important priority in a clinical trial is to ensure your child's safety. Before a trial can be offered to our patients, our Research Council must determine that it is scientifically appropriate. Then our Institutional Review Board (IRB), which includes representatives from the community in addition to many different departments at Memorial Sloan Kettering, reviews the study to make sure that a patient’s health, safety, and rights are protected.

Regardless of whether a particular trial is being conducted only at Memorial Sloan Kettering or is a multi-center trial, every physician or research institution follows the same step-by-step protocol – or plan – for selecting patients, delivering a therapy, and monitoring the effects. This ensures your child is treated in the same way as other participants, and that the effect of the therapy on all patients can be compared accurately.

Understanding Clinical Trials

Different clinical trials have different eligibility criteria for patients, such as diagnosis, previous treatments, and a child’s age. Clinical trials are typically grouped into four different types, or phases:

  • Phase I trials help determine the optimal amount or dose of a new therapy that can be given safely to participants. These studies typically have a small number of participants, often fewer than 20.
  • Phase II studies continue to evaluate safety, but also begin to assess a therapy’s effectiveness. These trials typically have more participants than phase I trials.
  • Phase III studies compare the effectiveness of a new therapy or combination of therapies with a standard treatment, and may include hundreds or thousands of participants.
  • Phase IV trials continue to study the safety and effectiveness of a treatment after it has been approved by the US Food and Drug Administration.

Memorial Sloan Kettering has the unique capabilities needed to conduct phase I and II trials. Learn more about our current pediatric clinical trials, or contact your child’s healthcare team to discuss possible clinical trial options.