Clinical Trials Breast Cancer Australia


What is a clinical trial?

Clinical trials are an important aspect of developing new and improved health care initiatives. Breast cancer clinical trials are designed to answer scientific questions, which may result in the identification of new and improved treatment options and preventative therapies.

Why have clinical trials?

Clinical trials are necessary to find out if new treatments are more effective than those currently accepted as the best available standard treatment.

All of the major milestones in controlling breast cancer worldwide have come through clinical trials. These include:
  • Chemotherapy and hormone treatment prevents recurrence and saves lives;
  • Mammograms save lives through earlier detection;
  • Removing just the cancer and preserving the breast is a safe and effective treatment for most women;
  • Breast cancer can be prevented in some women at increased risk;
  • Treatments targeted to the specific type of breast cancer can improve outcomes substantially.
All new treatments and procedures must be scientifically proven through clinical trials research before they can be adopted as standard treatment for women diagnosed with breast cancer.

Why participate in a clinical trial?

People take part in clinical trials for many reasons including:
  • They may be able to access a new treatment before it is routinely available as standard treatment for all breast cancer patients;
  • The treatments offered on a clinical trial include the best current standard treatment, compared with a new treatment which earlier research shows may be better;
  • Participating in a clinical trial helps to advance medical knowledge;
  • Many clinical trial participants are motivated to take part because the results of current clinical trials may help improve treatments and outcomes for future women diagnosed with breast cancer or who are at risk.
Clinical trial participants may be monitored more closely than patients who receive standard treatment and their treatment is rigorously documented. There are usually questionnaires to complete regarding the participant’s feelings or reactions to the treatment. This careful follow up means that the outcomes of the clinical trial are the result of accurate and detailed information which is then published in peer reviewed scientific journals.

Are clinical trials safe?

The guiding document for the conduct of a clinical trial is called a protocol. Clinical trial protocols are written by experienced clinicians and a team of experts in breast cancer treatment, translational research and trials coordination. All clinical trials conducted by the ANZBCTG are monitored by the ANZBCTG Scientific Advisory Committee.

The clinical trial protocol outlines the reason for doing the study, who may participate, the treatments and tests involved, when these will be done and why. The protocol must be approved by an independent panel of scientists, medical professionals and consumers, called an ethics committee. The progress of the clinical trial and the safety of clinical trial participants is carefully reviewed and monitored by an Independent Data and Safety Monitoring Committee and by the ethics committee responsible for approving the clinical trial.

Before joining a clinical trial, potential participants must understand why the clinical trial is being conducted, the potential risks and benefits and what their involvement would include. The decision to participate is made on the basis of information provided to the patient by her treating doctor. Written information about the clinical trial will also be provided. Both the doctor and the potential participant must be satisfied that all information about the clinical trial is understood and a statement to this effect is signed by both parties. This process is called “obtaining informed consent to participate in a clinical trial”.

Are there different types of clinical trials?

There are many types of clinical trials for the prevention and treatment of breast cancer, and studies which aim to improve a patient’s quality of life. Prevention clinical trials are designed to test new strategies to prevent breast cancer for women who have never had the disease but who are at high risk.

Treatment clinical trials are designed to find out which treatments are the most effective and to test new treatments to see if they are better at improving outcomes for patients compared to the current standard treatments available.

Quality of life assessments pay special attention to the breast cancer patient’s feelings about the impact and side effects of treatment. The aim of these assessments is to look for ways to improve the overall experience of the patients who receive these treatments in the future. The ANZBCTG has pioneered the measurement of quality of life in patients and carried out this research for more than 30 years.

How can I take part in a clinical trial?

If you would like to participate in a breast cancer clinical trial you should discuss this with your cancer specialist.

A list of ANZBCTG clinical trials that are open for participant entry is available at Information about breast cancer clinical trials can also be found on the Australian New Zealand Clinical Trials Registry website at A Decision Aid tool, which is designed to help people considering joining a clinical trial, is available on the Cancer Australia website.

Glossary of Terms

For more information on ANZBCTG Clinical Trials currently open for entry, please click here.

Clinical Trials

Clinical Trials