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3 Things to Look for When Reading Cancer Research


Knowing the type, phase and eligibility criteria is key in reading cancer research.

When patients are reading cancer-related clinical trial data, it is important that they understand whether it was an in-human or animal study, what phase the trial is in and the eligibility criteria for the trial, to determine how applicable the findings are to their particular situation, explained Sue Friedman, founder and executive director of FORCE.

In a recent interview with CURE®, Friedman – who is a cancer survivor herself – discussed what patients should look for when reading research. Patients and their loved ones can learn more through FORCE’s XRAY program, which helps break down news and research in the cancer world.


So some of the important things, if it is an article about new research, what was the research done on? Like, was it cells? In a test tube? Or in a culture? Was it animal research, or was it people research? So that's really important to look at first, where are they studying people? Obviously, research in people is going to be somewhat more relevant than research in mice, which will still probably be years away before it gets to the phase where they're looking at it in people.

If it was a study and people then what phase of the research was it? Was it really, really early research?... Research is categorized into (especially clinical trials) into phases one through five, one being really, really early research. So that still may be relevant. Because if you're someone, for example, in treatment, and you're trying to you've had a recurrence, or you're trying to make decisions about your treatment right now, then knowing what clinical trials may be available, that would be important, and that may be relevant to you. So if it's about research, what phase is it in? … The higher the phase, the more research that's been done on that particular agent. So that's, that's important to know.

Who did the study look at? So if you can, if, if you can dig deep or if it's available to you to find out? Who was the study, looking at what was the eligible, what we call eligibility criteria for the study population? Was it people diagnosed with cancer? Was it people diagnosed with early stage cancer? Was it you know, only open to people with certain types of cancer? So you know, for example, triple negative breast cancer, or colorectal cancer that has a biomarker called MSI high. So knowing the details about who was studied and who was involved in the research can help you determine how close their situation was to you.

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