Oncology Research Program


The Helen G. Nassif Community Cancer Center is a community based comprehensive cancer center offering programs and services that span from prevention and screening to diagnosis, treatment and research.  Providing care that is respectful of and responsive to individual patient preferences, needs and values guides all of our clinical decisions.

In collaboration with Physicians’ Clinic of Iowa Hematology/Oncology and the St. Luke’s Nassif Radiation Center, we conduct meaningful and beneficial clinical trials (research studies) for many different types of cancer. We participate in research programs with several respected national organizations funded by the National Cancer Institute. In addition, we partner with oncology organizations across the country to give our patients access to additional clinical trials.

What is a clinical trial?

Clinical trials are research studies that involve people. Through clinical trials, doctors find new ways to improve treatments and the quality of life for people with disease.

Researchers design cancer clinical trials to test new ways to:

  • Treat your cancer
  • Find and diagnose cancer
  • Prevent cancer
  • Manage symptoms of cancer and side effects from treatment

There are five common types of clinical trials:

  1. Interventional trials to test potential therapeutic interventions that may improve care of patients in the future
  2. Diagnostic trials to find new tests or procedures for diagnosing a disease or condition
  3. Prevention trials to investigate ways to prevent the onset of diseases
  4. Screening trials to test methods to identify diseases or conditions at the earliest stages
  5. Quality of life trials to look at different ways to improve quality of life for individuals who have a chronic illness

Interventional/Treatment Trials

Perhaps the best known clinical trials are those that investigate possible improvements in therapies. Before a new drug or treatment can be approved by the FDA, it must go through three phases of clinical trials. Most of the time, a clinical trial is designed to compare an investigational therapy with the best-known existing therapy for the disease being studied. When there is no proven treatment to use as a comparison, researchers sometimes compare an investigational drugs with a placebo, which is a sugar pill or other inactive substance that has no therapeutic value but is made to look like the new drug in development.

Diagnostic Trials

Many clinical trials focus on finding better ways to accurately diagnose diseases. These trials will hopefully lead to improved and easier methods enabling physicians to diagnose persons at risk for various diseases.

Prevention Trials

Researchers look for ways to stop disease from developing, often times in groups of people identified as being at higher risk. This type of trial looks at whether a certain medication, vitamin or lifestyle change (for example, healthy eating or exercise) might prevent disease.

Screening Trials

Researchers also look for ways to detect disease as early as possible. Being able to diagnosis disease early on provides an opportunity for care planning and to receive as much benefit as possible from current treatments.

Quality of Life Trials

Researchers try to better understand and address the needs of people with disease and their caregivers. The goal of such trials is to figure out what types of support, education or training solve some of the challenges faced by people and their caregivers.

Who can participate in a clinical trial?

Based on questions the research is trying to answer, each clinical trial will state the criteria for who can and cannot participate. The criteria helps ensure the group selected is as similar as possible, that way doctors can be sure the results are due to the treatment and not other factors.

A searchable database for cancer clinical trials is available through the American Cancer Society and clinicaltrials.gov. You can search for available clinical trials in your area based on cancer type, treatment history and current condition.

Whether you are newly diagnosed or a cancer survivor we are here to help and support you in any way we can. If you are interested in learning more about clinical research trials we have open at our site please call us at (319) 368-5514.

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