Clinical trials

Clinical trials lead to major clinical improvements and result in substantial gains for children in our care.

The Delta team at the Behavioural Sciences Unit (Kids Cancer Centre and UNSW Sydney) have developed this short animation to help explain to parents and young people what clinical trials for childhood cancer are. It is also informative about the clinical trials process in general, and may help all families wishing to know more about clinical trials.  The animation is targeted at 8-16-year-olds, but we think it’ll be useful for all ages.

What is a clinical trial?

Clinical trials are research investigations where people volunteer to test new treatments, interventions or tests as a way to prevent, detect, treat or manage various diseases or medical conditions. 

Types of "interventions" that might be tested in a clinical trial include (but are not limited to) experimental drugs, vaccines, medical devices, surgical procedures, behavioural therapies, preventive care strategies and/or educational interventions.

Some clinical trials look at how people respond to a new intervention and what side effects might occur. This helps to determine if a new intervention works, if it is safe, and if it is better than the interventions that are already available.

Clinical trials might also compare existing interventions, test new ways to use or combine existing interventions or observe how people respond to other factors that might affect their health (such as dietary changes). 

Researchers may also conduct clinical trials to evaluate diagnostic or screening tests and new ways to detect and treat disease.

How do they work?

During a clinical trial, information is gathered about the effectiveness and safety of a new intervention. The new intervention will usually be compared against something else, called a control. The control can be either a placebo (a substance containing no medication) or an established intervention that is already in use.

Clinical trials in Australia are regulated by laws and codes of conduct that aim to protect trial participants and the integrity of the research. All clinical research projects in Australia must be approved by a Human Research Ethics Committee, which checks that the research conforms to national human research ethics requirements.

A clinical trial team includes doctors and nurses and may also involve social workers, biostatisticians, physiotherapists, dieticians and other health care professionals. At the beginning of the trial, the clinical team take initial measurements and a medical history from the participant and give them clear information about what to expect in the trial and what they need to do. During the trial, each participant is monitored carefully by members of the trial team. 

Anyone taking part in a trial must be fully informed about the objectives of the research, what is expected of them and any risks and potential inconveniences that may be experienced during and after the trial.

Can my child participate?

If you are interested in having your child participate in clinical trials or would like further information on the support provided by the Clinical Research Centres, contact: