What are Clinical Trials All About? A Guide for Patients with Cancer

Research studies conducted with patients are called clinical trials. As a cancer patient, you may take part in a clinical trial. This guide is written for you, your family and friends, to explain what clinical trials are and to help you make a decision about entering a trial.

The time when cancer is diagnosed or when treatment decisions are being made is very difficult. It is often hard to understand or remember complex medical explanations. The information in this guide is meant to supplement what your doctors tell you. It provides answers to questions asked most often about clinical trials.

You may wish to write down questions to ask your doctor or nurse. Also, there is a glossary of words that relate to clinical trials and cancer care. This is a quick way to look up terms that you may hear or read. More information on many cancer-related topics is available at no cost in other publications from the National Cancer Institute.

We hope this guide will help to explain how clinical studies are designed and carried out. Of course, there are good treatments and good care for cancer patients whether they take part in clinical trials or receive standard treatments. You may decide not to take part in a trial, and you can still receive good medical care. The decision to enter a clinical trial or not is always up to you.

Table of Contents

1. What Is a Clinical Trial?

  • Why Are Clinical Trials Important?

  • Why Would a Patient Be Interested in a Clinical Trial?

  • Are There Risks or Side Effects in Clinical Trials?

  • Why Does Cancer Treatment Have Side Effects?

  • What Is Being Done To Lessen Side Effects of Treatment?

2. If You Are Thinking of Entering a Clinical Trial...

  • Are You Eligible for a Clinical Trial?

  • What Trials Are Available for Your Type of Cancer?

  • What Is Best for You?

  • What Are Important Questions To Ask About a Clinical Trial?

  • What Is Informed Consent?

  • What Is It Like To Be a Patient in a Clinical Trial?

  • Can You Leave a Trial at Any Time?

  • What Protection Do You Have as a Patient in a Clinical Trial?

  • What Can Help You Learn if a Trial Is Sound and Well Run?

  • What Kinds of Clinical Trials Are There?

  • How Are Trials Divided Into Phases?

  • How Are Clinical Trials Conducted?

3. The National Cancer Program and  Resources

  • National Cancer Program

  • Cancer Information Service (CIS)

  • American Cancer Society

  • PDQ

4. Glossary

Source: National Institutes of Health and National Cancer Institute No implicit or explicit endorsement of any company is implied.