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Health Tip: Evaluating a New Cancer Treatment

(HealthDay News) -- Before a new cancer treatment is available to the public, it must undergo vigorous evaluation, the American Cancer Society says.

Typically, a new treatment is tested on cancer cells in a laboratory. If testing is deemed successful, there may be testing on animals, followed by testing on people. Ultimately, it must be approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

During a clinical trial, research is done on people who volunteer to help doctors find ways to treat a disease or improve care.

The cancer society urges people to consider these factors when evaluating a new therapy:

  • Was the treatment tested in the lab (on cells in a dish, called in vitro), in animals, and in people)?
  • Who or what conducted the study?
  • Are there other studies that were done that support the same outcome?
  • If the study was done in people, how many were involved? How long were they followed?
  • Was there a difference in outcome between the group taking standard treatment and the group taking the new treatment?
  • Was the study published in a respected, peer-reviewed journal, or was it presented at a conference or described in a press release?
  • Has the treatment been approved by the FDA?
  • If the treatment hasn't been approved, is it available through compassionate use? (Compassionate drug use is when seriously-ill patients use an unapproved drug when no other treatment is available).
  • What's known about the treatment's side effects?
  • Is the treatment safe to use along with other therapies I'm using?
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