48 NCCN Guidelines for Patients ® : Melanoma, 2018 4 Overview of melanoma treatments Clinical trials Clinical trials New tests and treatments aren’t offered to the public as soon as they’re made. They first need to be studied. A clinical trial is a type of research that studies a test or treatment. NCCN experts consider clinical trials to be the best treatment option for people with cancer. Clinical trials study how safe and helpful tests and treatments are. When found to be safe and helpful, they may become tomorrow’s standard of care. Because of clinical trials, the tests and treatments in this book are now widely used to help people with melanoma. Future tests and treatments that may have better results than today’s treatments will depend on clinical trials. Without clinical trials, there is no way to know if a test or treatment is safe or helpful. Clinical trials are done in four steps, called phases. Some examples of the four phases of clinical trials for treatment are: Phase I trials aim to find the best dose and way to give a new drug with the fewest side effects. Phase II trials assess if a drug works to treat 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 FDA in many patients with different types of cancer. Joining a clinical trial has benefits and is strongly encouraged. 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 other 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 needed. To join a clinical trial, you must meet the conditions of the study. Patients in a clinical trial often have a similar cancer type 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. Next steps Ask your treatment team if there is an open clinical trial that you can join. There may be clinical trials where you are getting treatment or at other treatment centers nearby. You can also find clinical trials through the websites listed in Part 6.