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Types of clinical trials

What are the different types of cancer clinical trials?

There are many types of clinical trials, each designed to answer different clinical research questions. Most cancer clinical trials in Australia are treatment trials, and the Victorian Cancer Trials Link currently only lists treatment trials.

Clinical trials types Explanation
Prevention trials Evaluate whether medicines or health programs can lower the risk of developing diseases such as cancer.
Screening trials Look at new methods of detecting disease before physical symptoms appear.
Diagnostic trials Identify more accurate or less invasive ways of diagnosing a particular disease in people with signs or symptoms.
Treatment trials Test new treatments, new ways of giving treatments, or new combinations of treatments including drugs (or systemic therapy), radiotherapy, surgery, nutrition, physiotherapy, and complementary therapies. In essence, They look at whether the treatment works and if it causes side effects.
Quality of life trials Designed to improve the comfort and quality of life of people who have cancer. They are done alongside a treatment trial.

What are open-label or double-blind studies?

Some randomised controlled trials use blinding so that those involved can’t tell the difference between the two types of treatments.

In a blinded study, the participants don’t know which arm of the study they’re in. This means they don’t know which treatment or intervention they are receiving. Blinding aims to reduce bias in the reporting of benefits and side effects.

If you don’t know which treatment you’re having, the results are less likely to be influenced by your or your doctor’s views. For example, if you or your doctor know you were having the experimental treatment, you might report feeling better than you actually are because you believe you are having a more effective treatment.

Blinding is not necessary when the control and experimental treatments are noticeably different – for example, it would be difficult to hide a surgery from the participant.

In a  double-blind study, neither the participants nor the research team know who is receiving the experimental or control treatment. In this case, the researchers only discover who is in each arm of the study at the end of the trial when the results are being analysed.

In an  open-label study , both the participants and the research team know which arm the participants are in.

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