Understanding Clinical Trials

Video: Tarek Dessouky, MD, MBA, MPH, Executive Director, Innovative Clinical Research Institute (ICRI) talks about the research arm of The Oncology Institute (TOI) and discusses clinical trials as well as their benefits.

A clinical trial is a voluntary study conducted in individuals to answer specific questions about the safety and/or effectiveness of new drugs, vaccines or other therapies.

Clinical trials are conducted in four phases – which include assessing safety, efficacy, as well as potential side effects. The FDA requires clinical trials before any kind of medicine can be approved for the general population. The Oncology Institute does not accept any trials they feel will not benefit their patients.

By taking part in a clinical trial, participants gain access to new, state-of-the-art cancer treatments. Participants also play a more active role in their treatment and researchers follow their health journey a bit more closely.

“Our goal at the Innovative Clinical Research Institute, ICRI, is to be able to offer every one of our patients the opportunity to participate in a clinical trial if they wish.” -Dr. Tarek Dessouky, Executive Director, Innovative Clinical Research Institute (ICRI)

The Innovative Clinical Research Institute (ICRI) at TOI

Innovative Clinical Research Institute (ICRI) is the research arm of The Oncology Institute of Hope and Innovation. They are a leader in the field of cancer clinical trials, a network of compassionate, experienced cancer care specialists.

ICRI was founded in 2011. Since then, they have been committed to advancing and innovating cancer treatment through cutting-edge clinical trials. Their goal is to assist in the process of discovering safe and effective therapies that improve the quality of life in cancer patients in the U.S. and around the world.

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Cancer Patients & the COVID-19 Vaccine

The COVID-19 pandemic has presented unique and unprecedented challenges for everyone. For cancer patients who are immunocompromised, the risk and impact of the coronavirus is far greater.  

Now that the COVID-19 vaccine is widely available to individuals 16 and olderprotecting ourselves, loved ones and our community is easier than ever. According to the American Cancer Society, many medical experts recommend that most patients with cancer or a history of cancer should get a COVID-19 vaccine.  

You may be wondering which COVID-19 vaccine is right for youAll three vaccines – Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, Johnson & Johnson – have been proven effective in protecting against COVID-19 and its variants. At this time, many health experts are recommending that you get whichever one is available to you to protect against serious illness, hospitalization, or even death. 

The CDC recommends continuing to take preventative measures to limit the spread of COVID-19, including wearing a mask and maintaining 6 feet of distance even after being fully vaccinatedThe list of safe activities once fully vaccinated include being able safely visit indoors or a private setting with other fully vaccinated individuals, however this may vary for cancer patients. 

It is important to remember that every individual’s health situation is unique. When considering getting the COVID-19 Vaccine, it is recommended to discuss your options with your primary care physician and oncologist to assess the best plan of action.


Get more in-depth information about getting vaccinated 


Wellness Practices For Your Cancer Journey

The reality of a cancer diagnosis can be difficult for both patients and their families. When taking a look at maintaining wellness as a whole, we must consider not just the physical, but our mental and emotional health as well. For this reason, some patients may consider integrating natural methods of wellness in addition to cancer therapy that can help make the cancer journey more manageable.

A few examples of wellness practices include:

  • Meditation: This practice combines mindfulness, deep breathing and focus to achieve a state of stability and calmness. There are several apps that can be downloaded on your smart phone for a guided experience, including Calm and Headspace.
  • Music Therapy: Research1 has shown that music can help alleviate pain, manage stress, promote physical rehabilitation and more. Now days, music is readily accessible almost anywhere thanks to smartphones and music apps.
  • Art Therapy: Art is a powerful form of expression that allows individuals creative freedom to help foster healing and explore emotions. Drawing, painting and photography are only a few examples of art forms that we can try!
  • Massage Therapy: This form of treatment uses rubbing and pressure techniques on the muscles and body to promote physical pain as well as stress relief.
  • Yoga: Yoga is a mind and body practice that integrates physical movement, breathing techniques and meditation that encourages the embodiment of relaxation.

Navigating a cancer journey is no easy feat. Each individual patient will live their own unique experience. With the help of your oncologist and health team, the path to healing can be taken one step at a time.

The Oncology Institute recommends patients consult their primary care physician prior to engaging in any new physical activities.

For more information on ‘Complementary and Alternative Methods and Cancer’, visit the American Cancer Society’s website.



1 Stanczyk, Malgorzata Monika. “Music therapy in supportive cancer care.” Reports of practical oncology and radiotherapy: journal of Greatpoland Cancer Center in Poznan and Polish Society of Radiation Oncology vol. 16,5 170-2. 8 Jun. 2011, doi:10.1016/j.rpor.2011.04.005.