Clinical Trials FAQs

What are clinical trials?

Clinical trials are research studies conducted with people who volunteer to participate in the testing of new therapies. The purpose of these studies is to find better therapies for cancer treatment.

How are cancer clinical trials conducted?

Clinical research trials are designed by physicians and researchers who develop an action plan (protocol) that describes what will be done in the study, how it will be conducted and why each part of the study is necessary. Each study has eligibility criteria for who can or cannot participate in the study, which may include type of cancer, age, gender, medical history and current health status. This protocol is used by every doctor taking part in the study.

What are the benefits of participating in a clinical trial?

  • You may have access to promising new therapies that doctors hope will be more effective or less toxic than the standard treatment. These therapies are not yet available to patients outside the study.
  • You can play an active role in your cancer care by expanding your treatment options.
  • You will receive expert medical care during the trial and throughout your treatment.
  • Your overall health is closely monitored throughout the trial.
  • You will be contributing to greater knowledge that may help other cancer patients in the future.

What are some of the possible risks of participating in a clinical trial?

  • Participants in randomized studies will not be able to choose the approach they receive.
  • Health insurance and managed care providers may not cover all patient care costs in a study, in which case the patient would be responsible for those costs.
  • Therapies under study are not always better than the standard care.
  • New treatments may have unknown side effects or risks.

How are my rights protected during a clinical trial?

Clinical research trials are conducted according to strict scientific and ethical principles, and groups of experts at the national and local levels approve research studies before they begin. One important group who evaluates clinical trials is the institutional review board (IRB) of the research organization implementing the trial. An IRB is made up of doctors, researchers, community leaders and other members of the community. This board is focused on protecting the safety of participants by reviewing the protocol to make sure the study is conducted fairly and participants are well-informed of their rights during the study.

When considering if I want to participate in a study, what type of information will be available?

A doctor, nurse or someone from the research team will give you the important facts about the study, including the purpose of the study and what is involved such as the tests and other procedures used, possible risks and benefits. You will also receive a written consent form explaining the study, which you will be asked to sign should you decide to participate. However, even if you sign the consent form, you may stop participating in the study at any time.

Do I have to participate in a clinical trial?

No. Your participation in a clinical trial is completely voluntary at all times. It is important to ask lots of questions and consider all of your treatment options before you decide if taking part in a study is right for you.

Your Doctor Can Tell You More

If you have any questions about how clinical trials work, please ask your doctor, nurse or other health care professional.