Randomised controlled trials (RCT)
Some phase 2 and phase 3 trials are randomised. This means that there are at least two different groups in the trial. The people taking part are put into the groups at random, by a computer. One group will have the new treatment and the other group will have a treatment to compare it with. This could be a different dose of the new treatment, a standard treatment for pancreatic cancer, or a placebo (see below).
Randomised controlled trials are sometimes blinded. People taking part in a ‘blinded trial’ will not know whether they are getting the new treatment or the standard treatment (or a placebo). The research team may not know either. They will give the best level of medical care to everyone in the trial. If they need to, the trial doctors can always find out whether someone is having the new treatment or the placebo.
Sometimes phase 2 trials compare a new treatment to a placebo. A placebo is a ‘dummy’ drug that looks the same as the new treatment but does not do anything.
A placebo may be used in clinical trials if there is no standard treatment to compare the new treatment with, or if the new treatment being tested is being added to a standard treatment.
The placebo effect
Even though a placebo doesn’t actually treat the cancer, it can affect how some people feel. For example, they might feel better because they think they are getting a treatment for their cancer (even though they aren’t). This is called the ‘placebo effect’. The research team will consider the placebo effect when they look at the trial results.