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U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

For Consumers

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Cancer Treatment


Cancer Treatment 

NCI Nurse

Your Oncologist or Healthcare Provider may recommend that you start treating your cancer with an approved cancer treatment that could include drugs, biologics, or medical devices. If there are no approved cancer treatments available for the type of cancer that you have, or if you have failed approved cancer treatments for your cancer, talk to your Healthcare Provider about participating in a clinical trial.  


What is chemotherapy?

Chemotherapy is a cancer treatment that uses drugs to destroy cancer cells. It is also called "chemo" Today, there are many different kinds of chemotherapy. So the way you feel during treatment may be very different for everyone. To continue reading and to learn more about what you can expect when you are treated with chemotherapy please read this link from the National Cancer Institute.




Clinical Trials

The FDA does not conduct clinical trials but you can research for a clinical trial through clinicaltrials.gov. This site allows you to search by type of cancer, chemotherapy product, and location. For more information please visit www.clinicaltrials.gov.

                                           Clinical Trials.GOV 2013 Image


Consumer Updates Expanded Access Article

Expanded Access

If you do not qualify for a clinical trial, talk to your Oncologist or Healthcare Provider about getting the cancer treatments outside of clinical trials through an Expanded Access Program, sometimes called "compassionate use,". This is the use of an investigational drug outside of a clinical trial to treat a patient with a serious or life-threatening illness who has no alternative treatment here in the United States.

FDA regulations allow access to investigational drugs for treatment purposes on a case-by-case basis for: 

  • an idividual patient,
  • intermediate-size groups of patients with similar treatment needs who do not qualify to participate in a clinical trial,
  • large groups of patients who do not have other treatment options available.

Just as in clinical trials, these investigational drugs have not yet been approved by the FDA as safe and effective. Clinical trials help to determine whether the benefits of a drug are likely to outweigh any negative effects. Clinical trials can also help doctors find ways to minimize or manage side effects that their patients may experience.

It is important to remember that the investigational drug or medical device:

  • may be effective in the treatment of a condition, or they may not.
  • may have unexpected serious side effects

Before you decide to pursue treatment with an investigational drug or medical device, talk with your Healthcare Provider about:

  • whether an FDA-approved medication or other therapy could be used to treat your condition.
  • the possible risks associated with the investigational drug or medical device. 

The FDA published a Consumer Update Article on Access to Investigational Drugs in August 2009 and explains what Expanded Access is, how much manufacturers can charge, and other important information about the Expanded Access Rule. For more information please see the web links at the bottom of this page.



Personal Importation

If you fail your treatment, and you do not qualify for the Expanded Access Program, and you or your Healthcare Provider is aware of a chemotherapy product for your type of cancer that has been approved in another country but not in the U.S., talk to your Healthcare Provider about Personal Importation of the chemotherapy product. For more information please see web links at the bottom of this page.



Nurse taking a Blood Pressure


Palliative Care

At any time during a serious illness, a patient may consider palliative care along with treatments for the cancer. Palliative care is the treatment of physical symptoms, such as pain,  nausea, or fatigue, and psychological symptoms, such as depression or anxiety. The goal of palliative care is to enhance patients’ quality of life.  


It is always best to talk with your Healthcare Provider about ways to improve your qualitity of life as you start your treatment and continue to discuss this with your Healthcare Provider and your family during your course of treatment. For more information please see web links at the bottom of this page.






Hospice Care 

Hospice care is end-of-life care provided by health professionals and volunteers. They provide medical, psychological, and spiritual support, with the goal to help people who are dying have peace, comfort, and dignity. Hospice care can take place in the home, a hospice center, a hospital, or a skilled nursing facility.  For more information please see web links at the bottom of this page. 



Information on Palliative Care and Hospice

Information on Palliative Care and Hospice