Clinical trials: How progress in medicine is made

Associate director for clinical research at Dartmouth Cancer Center, Konstantin Dragnev, MD, joins Dartmouth Health CEO and president, Joanne M. Conroy, MD, for a conversation about oncology clinical trials.

Just finding the right trial for the right patient is what we do every day.

Konstantin Dragnev, MD

Clinical trials are how progress in medicine is made. We understand cancer better; we know the mechanisms to some degree; we try to find the weak spots; and then we design treatments to address weak spots and fill unmet needs.

These treatments can be medicines such as new chemotherapy drugs, but they can also be procedures, they can be engineering devices, they can be surgical techniques or behavioral and lifestyle approaches such as exercise for prevention of cancer and cancer recurrence. The way that any of these new treatments are evaluated before widespread use is through clinical research.

Clinical trials are a multi-step process. Phases I, II, and III are evaluating different aspects:

  1. Is the treatment safe? This is Phase I. 
  2. Is this safe treatment effective? This is Phase II. 
  3. Is the treatment more effective than established treatment? This is the Phase III trial. 
  4. There is also a Phase IV, which is to seek additional information after a drug has been approved for everyday use.

Clinical trials are for different types of cancer but also for different stages of cancer such as early-stage and late-stage. And also different studies for different moments in the course of cancer: Treatment early on just after diagnosis, or treatments after several standard options have stopped working. We have a portfolio that covers most of these different elements.

Just finding the right trial for the right patient is what we do every day.

To learn more about oncology clinical trials or find active and enrolling trials, please visit the Dartmouth Cancer Center website.

What are the most frequently asked questions about clinical trials? What are some common myths and what should patients ask their providers when deciding whether to take part in clinical research? Dr. Dragnev addresses these and more in his full Connect with the CEO conversation with Dr. Joanne Conroy, available on the Dartmouth Health YouTube channel.