Content - Map Cancer Research

Illustrated by Joël Meyer / © SAKK

Cancer research

Preclinical research

New substances or new combinations of already known drugs, or other new therapies, are tested in the laboratory in test tubes, cell cultures, microorganisms, animal models, and other in vitro systems. The tolerability and efficacy of the substances or treatments are determined in order to predict their effects in humans. This research is performed by universities and pharmaceutical companies.

Governmental institutions, foundations like the Swiss Cancer League, and pharmaceutical companies finance both preclinical and clinical research.


Clinical research

Once potential drugs or therapies are considered safe and potentially efficient based on the results of preclinical research, they are verified and analyzed in humans. Tests are performed within clinical trials conducted at hospitals.  

The SAKK (Swiss Group for Clinical Cancer Research) develops, organizes and coordinates most of the non-commercial cancer clinical trials run in Switzerland.

The development of a new trial is discussed within groups of doctors from all member hospitals, taking into account both the needs of patients in various indications and current scientific knowledge. The SAKK Coordinating Center is responsible for the set-up of new trials. A trial is described in detail in the trial protocol and the patient information sheet. These documents must be approved by the competent authorities (e.g. Ethics Committees and Swissmedic) before a trial can start. SAKK Regulatory Affairs Department prepares the submission of all required documents to the authorities. Once authorized, a trial is implemented at the participating hospitals both in Switzerland and - for many trials - in European countries as well.

Patients are informed about trial by their oncologist. If they want to participate in a trial, they will receive the planned treatment, which may be a medication, surgery, radiotherapy, or a combination of these therapies at the hospital. Patient data and results of laboratory tests and examinations, as well as symptoms and side effects, will be documented both during the treatment and for some time thereafter (follow-up). All these data are collected in an anonymized way at the Coordinating Center. The proper conduct of the trial at the hospital and the correctness of the data are verified by a monitor from the Coordinating Center. Data managers and statisticians also verify the data and analyze them.

Each trial is designed to answer an important medical and scientific question; the analysis of the data allows us to answer these questions and bring progress to cancer care. The results of each trial are communicated and published in scientific journals in order to inform the community.

Studies are made possible through the financial support of various partners, such as the Swiss government, pharmaceutical companies, foundations and others.



If it is shown during clinical trials that a new treatment improves the response or the quality of life of patients, it will be used by oncologists in their daily practice, and patients will profit directly from the results of the research.