Clinical trials are research studies that test how well new drugs, devices, or medical approaches work in people. Through clinical trials, doctors find new ways to improve tests, treatments, and the quality of life for people with cancer and other diseases.
What is a clinical trial?
Clinical trials can test the safety or effectiveness of methods of screening, diagnosis, or treatment. They are the final step in a long process that begins with research in a lab. Before any new treatment is used with people, researchers work for many years to understand a new treatment’s effects on cancer cells in the lab and in animals. They also try to figure out the side effects it may cause.
When you take part in a clinical trial, you add to the greater knowledge about cancer and help improve cancer care for future patients.
How to understand and evaluate clinical trials
In February 2017, Emily Bergsland, MD, University of California, San Francisco, spoke at the NETRF Bay Area Patient and Family Education Conference on how to better understand clinical trials. Hear what she had to say.
How to find open clinical trials
The U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) maintains a website of publicly and privately supported clinical studies conducted around the world. To learn more about clinicaltrials.gov, visit their background page.
For families and patients who are interested in learning more about clinical trials and how to participate, clinicaltrials.gov provides an excellent resource page on what clinical trials are and how to find studies in your area.
Finally, to understand more about using the database, visit clinicaltrials.gov.
Questions to ask about participating a clinical trial
Before deciding to participate in a clinical trial, talk to your treatment team. Clinical trials have strict criteria and in some cases, require your physician to refer you. There are a lot of issues to consider. You want to be sure a clinical trial is the best step for you. Here’s a list of questions you may want to ask.
Questions about the trial
- What is the purpose of the trial?
- Why do the researchers believe that the treatment being studied may be better than the one being used now? Why may it not be better?
- How long will I be in the trial?
- What kinds of tests and treatments are involved?
- How will the doctor know if the treatment is working?
- How will I be told about the trial’s results?
- Who can I speak with about questions I have during and after the trial?
- Who will be in charge of my care?
Questions about risks and benefits
- What are the possible side effects or risks of the new treatment?
- What are the possible benefits?
- How do the possible risks and benefits of this trial compare to those of the standard treatment?
Questions about your rights
- How will my health information be kept private?
- What happens if I decide to leave the trial?
Questions about costs
- Will I have to pay for any of the treatments or tests?
- What costs will my health insurance cover?
- Who pays if I’m injured in the trial?
- Who can help answer any questions from my insurance company?
Questions about daily life
- How could the trial affect my daily life?
- How often will I have to come to the hospital or clinic?
- Will I have to stay in the hospital during the clinical trial? If so, how often and for how long?
- Will I have to travel long distances? Who will pay for my travel?
- Will I have check-ups after the trial?
Questions about comparing choices
- What are my other treatment choices, including standard treatments?
- How does the treatment I would receive in this trial compare with the other treatment choices?
Who funds clinical trials?
A clinical trial may be funded by a government agency (such as the National Cancer Institute), teaching hospital, pharmaceutical company, biotech company, or nonprofit organization. Take the time to learn who is funding a trial you are considering.
The NET Research Foundation funds research, including clinical trials, to advance the diagnosis and treatment of NETs. Learn more about our funded research and grant opportunities. If you would like to support NET research, please donate.
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Patients should talk to their doctors before looking into clinical trials. NETRF’s website provides purely advisory information. The information is not intended as and shall not be relied upon as medical advice.