Participating in Clinical Research

Reviewed by: HU Medical Review Board | Last review date: September 2017.

Bladder cancer is an area of active research. Scientists are always searching to find new and better treatments that have fewer side effects for people being treated.1,2 However, it can take many years for new drugs and therapies to be developed. The United States government requires new drugs and therapies to go through extensive testing before they can be approved for treating the public.

What are clinical trials?

Clinical trials are a very important part of the development of new drugs. Once a new type of drug or therapy is discovered that scientists think may be effective in treating cancer, then it goes through a process of clinical trials that can take several years or more. Clinical trials are research studies that have several goals. Researchers are trying to find out if the drug or therapy is effective, but also if it is more (or less) effective than existing drugs that are already being used. They also need to find out if the drug or therapy is safe for patients, as well as what kinds of side effects it causes.

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Who participates in clinical trials?

Clinical trials involve patients who volunteer to take part in the research process for new drugs or therapies, or new combinations of drugs or therapies.1,2 By volunteering to participate, these patients are helping to advance the science of treatment and our understanding of diseases like bladder cancer.

Some patients volunteer because they want to be among the first people to try a new type of drug or therapy. It is important to remember that it is not definite that the new drug or therapy will be better than existing treatments, although it is possible that it will.

Other patients take part in a clinical trial because their healthcare providers have advised them that it is the most promising treatment option currently available for them. If existing treatments are not likely to be effective for those patients, for example, they may decide to volunteer for a clinical trial on a new treatment that has the potential—but is not guaranteed—to be effective.

How do you join a clinical trial?

If you are interested in participating in a clinical trial for bladder cancer, speak with the healthcare providers on your cancer care team. They will be able to provide you with more information about the advantages and disadvantages of taking part in a trial. They can also let you know if there are clinical trials available that might be suitable for your specific type of bladder cancer.

The National Cancer Institute also provides information about the types of clinical trials that are being carried out on bladder cancer. Information is available here.

What types of clinical trials are researching bladder cancer treatments?

One of the most promising areas of research about bladder cancer treatments is immunotherapy.3,4 Immunotherapy drugs works by helping the body’s own immune system to attack cancer cells. Immunotherapy drugs that have been approved for certain types of bladder cancer and are continuing to be studied include:

  • durvalumab (Imfinzi)
  • avelumab (Bavencio)
  • nivolumab (Opdivo)
  • pembrolizumab (Keytruda)