Patient Services FAQs

Every drug a person has ever taken from Tylenol to eye drops has gone through a clinical trial. However, when faced with taking part in a cancer clinical trial, people have many questions. We have tried to answer some of these questions here.

Q. What is a clinical trial?
A. A clinical trial is a medical research study done on people. Before a new treatment or drug can enter the clinical trial stage and involve people, researchers test it in a laboratory. If the laboratory test results show the treatment might slow the growth of or destroy cancer cells, a clinical trial is set up. Out of 1000 potential drugs tested in the laboratory, only one will go to a clinical trial.

Q. What do cancer clinical trials test?
A. Cancer trials test new drugs, combinations of treatments, new approaches to surgery or radiation or other methods for treating cancer. These studies determine that the new treatment is both safe and effective.

Q. Will I know what the study is testing?
A. Before you join a study, a research team representative will explain the study to you and answer your questions. Be sure to ask as many questions as you can.

Q. Do I have to take part in a clinical trial? What if I decide to leave the trial before it is over?
A. All clinical trials are voluntary. Only you decide if you will take part in a clinical trial. If you choose to take part but want to leave before the trial ends, trial doctors may continue to observe your records to be sure that no side effects arise.

Q. Can my doctor sign me up for a study without my approval?
A. If you decide to join the study, you will have to sign an informed consent form. This form will explain the reason for the study; provide current information about and possible side effects of the treatment; and list what you will be required to do as a participant.

Q. How can I be sure that the research team will treat me well during the trial?
A. Institutional review boards (IRBs) watch over clinical trials to make sure that the studies are ethical and to protect the welfare of the participants.

Q. Will I have to pay to take part in a clinical trial?
A. You may be responsible for some of the costs of the clinical trial. The informed consent form will tell you what costs the organizers of the trial will pay. You should check with your insurance company for details on what your plan will cover.

Q. Who will have access to my medical information?
A. Your medical information is confidential. Clinical trial organizers will protect your identity by assigning you a number or code that links your information with your treatment. Only people who need to know will have access to that code.

Q. Will I have to travel to another city or state to take part in a clinical trial?
A. Check with your physician. NMCCA is opening more trials each month. You may be able to find a clinical trial that is appropriate for your disease close to your home.

Q. How many adult patients participate in cancer clinical trials?
A. Less than 5% of adult patients participate in clinical trials.

Q. How many children take part in cancer clinical trials?
A. Nearly 90% of eligible pediatric cancer patients enter clinical trials, resulting in an overall cure rate for childhood cancer that exceeds 75%.