Virginia Cancer Specialists » Your Experience » The Research Institute at Virginia Cancer Specialists – Research and Clinical Trials

At Virginia Cancer Specialists (VCS), research is a vital part of our mission to provide patients access to advanced cancer treatments and clinical trials in the community where they live and work.

This allows us to better meet the growing demand in our community for groundbreaking clinical trials, it also enables us to lead the way in research focusing on promising new advancements, such as immunotherapy.

VCS houses a new Research Facility for Phase 1 Clinical Trials – the largest of its kind in the Northern Virginia area.

Advancing Care Through Clinical Trials

VCS has open studies across almost all tumor types, including lung, head and neck, breast, melanoma, lymphoma, bladder, uterine, ovarian, and brain.

All Clinical Trials

Because Virginia Cancer Specialists is committed to providing the best available care to all of its patients, research is and will continue to be the cornerstone of the organization. Such research offers patients access to new investigational drugs not always available to the general public.

VCS participates in many clinical trials, which show us what works (and what doesn’t) in medicine. They are the best way for doctors to learn what is safe and effective in treating diseases such as cancer. Such research offers VCS access to new investigational drugs, reduces treatment-related side effects and introduces new methods of care.

As part of its cutting-edge program, VCS has available to its patients, more than any other program in the Metropolitan D.C. area. VCS has open studies across almost all tumor types, including lung, head and neck, breast, melanoma, lymphoma, bladder, uterine, ovarian, and brain. By restoring the immune system’s recognition of cancer cells, this class of drugs hopes to revolutionize cancer care.

The VCS Research Institute prides itself on providing a quality program right in Northern Virginia. Providing top-notch care and the latest, cutting-edge trials allows the program to study new and potentially life-saving treatments. The VCS Research Institute was recognized by INC Research, LLC, for its outstanding research program and speedy and smooth start-up timelines in 2014.

The Research Department

VCS Research Institute - Physicians and Research Team

Research Team

Raymond Wadlow, M.D. | Karin Choquette, MSN, RN, CCRC | Alex Spira M.D. PhD, F.A.C.P. |


In order to participate in an open trial, a patient must be given the opportunity to read and review a consent form that is specific for the trial. Following careful review and discussion with one’s Physician or the physician running the trial at VCS, the patient will meet with a Clinical Research Coordinator (CRC) who will be the main contact during the course of the study. There may be specific tests for the study, such as an echocardiogram, EKG, blood work, or even a biopsy of the patient’s cancer. Following this, if all criteria are met, the patient will then start treatment “on study”.

Understanding Clinical Trials

What is a Clinical Trail?

Clinical trials are research studies that involve patient volunteers to help find different ways to treat diseases such as cancer. Each study is designed to answer specific scientific questions and help find potentially better ways to prevent, diagnose, or treat cancer. The VCS Research Institute participates in Phase I, II, III, and IV studies, testing drugs at a variety of stages and offering cutting-edge research. To learn more about clinical trials at VCS, download our program booklet here.

What Happens During a Clinical Trial?

When someone chooses to take part in a clinical trial, the care they receive is much like the care they would otherwise receive. However, there is often additional monitoring for the purpose of learning about potential side effects and benefits of the clinical trial. Some trials simply test a study regimen, and all participants receive this same regimen. Other trials may compare a study regimen to the standard treatment. In this type of study, participants are randomly assigned to receive one or the other. Neither the participant nor their doctor can choose which one they will receive for important scientific reasons. Some people worry that they will not know which drug they are receiving or that they will receive a placebo, sometimes called a “sugar pill”. Placebos are never used in place of a treatment that is known to work. Participants will always be told before agreeing to take part if a placebo is going to be considered. Tests that are not part of standard care are covered by the research study.

What is Informed Consent?

Informed consent means that patients must be told the key facts about a clinical trial before deciding whether to take part. If the patient agrees to take part, the informed consent process involves signing a form that details the entire clinical trial, possible side effects, and potential risks and benefits. Participants may withdraw their decision to participate at any time for any reason.

Why are Clinical Trials Important?

Clinical trials are a vital part of the process in finding new targeted treatments. These research studies are conducted to determine if a study drug is safe and effective. Today’s research will guide the improvements for tomorrow’s cancer care.

Should I participate in a Clinical Trial?

The decision to take part in a clinical trial is a personal one. You may wish to talk to your family and loved ones, as well as members of your health care team, before deciding. As with all current standard treatments, there can be possible risks as well as benefits from taking part in clinical trials. Study drugs may be found to be more or less effective than current standard treatments and have side effects not yet known. You will be informed of these risks as much as possible. Your health care team will give you the information you need to make the decision that is right for you.

Why Do Some Cancer Patients Choose to Participate in Clinical Trials?

Some cancer patients may participate because they are hoping for a possible cure and longer life or a way to feel better. Others find that the current standard therapies are not optimal for their cancer and wish to be among the first to participate in a research study and receive an investigational drug. Whatever the reason, participation could make a difference in a patient’s future, as well as in the lives of future cancer patients.

How are Clinical Trials Structured?

Clinical trials are structured into four phases:

  • In Phase I clinical trials, researchers test a study drug in a small group of people (20 to 80) for the first time to evaluate its safety, determine a safe dosage range, and identify side effects.
  • In Phase II clinical trials, the study drug is tested in a larger group of people (100 to 300) to measure its effectiveness and further evaluate its safety.
  • In Phase III clinical trials, the study drug is tested in large groups of people (1,000 to 3,000) to confirm its effectiveness, monitor side effects, compare it to approved standard treatments, and collect information that will allow the study drug to be used safely.
  • In Phase IV clinical trials, the drug is tested after it has been marketed to collect information about its effect in various populations and about any side effects associated with long-term use.

Clinical Trials

To learn more about clinical trials at VCS, download our program booklet here.



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