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NCCN Guidelines for Patients


Esophageal Cancer, Version 1.2016


Overview of cancer treatments Clinical trials | Review

New tests and treatments go through a series of

clinical trials to make sure they’re safe and work.

Without clinical trials, there is no way to know if a

test or treatment is safe or helpful. Clinical trials have

four phases. Some examples of the four phases for

treatment are:

Phase I trials

– aim to find the best dose of a

new drug with the fewest side effects.

Phase II trials

– assess if a drug works for a

specific type of cancer.

Phase III trials

– compare a new drug to the

standard treatment.

Phase IV trials

– test new drugs approved by

the U.S. FDA (


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in many patients with different types of cancer.

Joining a clinical trial has benefits. First, you’ll have

access to the most current cancer care. Second, you

will receive the best management of care. Third, the

results of your treatment—both good and bad—will be

carefully tracked. Fourth, you may help other people

who will have cancer in the future.

Clinical trials have risks, too. Like any test or

treatment, there may be side effects. Also, new tests

or treatments may not help. Another downside may

be that paperwork or more trips to the hospital are


To join a clinical trial, you must meet the conditions

of the study. Patients in a clinical trial are often alike

in terms of their cancer and general health. This is to

know that any progress is because of the treatment

and not because of differences between patients.

To join, you’ll need to review and sign a paper called

an informed consent form. This form describes the

study in detail. The study’s risks and benefits should

be described and may include others than those

described above.

Ask your treatment team if there is an open clinical

trial that you can join. There may be clinical trials

where you’re getting treatment or at other treatment

centers nearby. You can also find clinical trials

through the websites listed in Part 7.


• Endoscopic treatment uses small tools to remove

or destroy small tumors.

• An esophagectomy removes some or the entire

esophagus along with nearby lymph nodes.

• Radiation therapy uses high-energy rays to kill

cancer cells or stop new cancer cells from being


• Chemotherapy stops cancer cells from completing

their life cycle so they can’t increase in number.

• One type of targeted therapy stops the growth

of new blood vessels into esophageal tumors.

Without blood, cancer cells starve and die. A

second type of targeted therapy for esophageal

cancer stops the cancer cells from receiving

certain growth signals.

• Clinical trials give people access to new tests

and treatments that otherwise can’t usually be

received. These new tests and treatments may, in

time, be approved by the FDA.