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
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
Phase IV trials
– test new drugs approved by
the U.S. FDA (
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
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.