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Tips for Finding and Participating in Cancer Clinical Trials

February 28, 2023

Cancer treatment sometimes means finding clinical trials that will offer patients the potential to take an active role in their cancer treatments as well as provide hope for those facing difficult diagnoses. With clinical trial matching and trial support, participating in a cancer clinical trial is a good option for lots of patients. But not every patient knows what a clinical trial is or how to find a clinical trial that will work for their own specific medical situation.

What is a Cancer Clinical Trial?

A cancer clinical trial is a research study that uses people to test medications that are new or used in a new way to treat some aspect of cancer. Trials may include the use of placebo medications for some participants, or they may only focus on testing the medicine and carefully studying the outcomes on the participants. Trials can be long or short, with many or few participants and may take place anywhere cancer treatments are studied. Participants in clinical trials for cancer treatments not only may personally benefit from the medications they are testing during their trials but they also are helping to refine treatment options for future cancer patients.

Clinical Trial Oncology Options

Those who want to find clinical trials can expect to find three types of organizations that offer trials for cancer patients to consider.

  • Biotech and Drug Company Trials Biotechnology and drug companies often run clinical trials for cancer drugs. These trials may be coordinated with specific doctors or hospitals.
  • Cancer Centers and Clinics Across the US, various cancer centers or clinics may offer clinical trials for cancer patients. These trials may be located at the center or clinic, and they will be conducted similarly to other clinical trials.
  • National Cancer Institute (NCI) Supported Clinical Trials Clinical trial oncology options are taking place across Canada, the US and internationally that are supported by NCI with the National Clinical Trials Network (NCTN), the NCI Community Oncology Research Program (NCORP), and the Experimental Therapeutics Clinical Trials Network (ETCTN).

Finding Clinical Trials

Patients and families who want to find trials can look at one of the clearing houses for ongoing or upcoming trials open to cancer patients. Before seeking a trial to participate in, patients should know their cancer type and stage, know what treatments they have received and be able to provide a thorough medical background and history to be considered for participation in a medical trial for cancer. Cancer trial lists can be found through multiple avenues available to everyone, and patients or doctors can contact the trial organizers at any time during a patient’s cancer treatment.

  • Asking Your Doctor Your cancer doctor may be part of a clinical trial or may know about trials that may be right for you. Asking if your doctor knows of any trials near you may help you quickly connect to a beneficial clinical trial option.
  • Cancer Advocacy Groups Some organizations may provide lists of cancer trials as part of their business. These trials may be NCI-supported trials or may be connected to drug or biotech companies.
  • ClinicalTrials.gov This federally funded organization is part of the National Library of Medicine, and it provides lists of current and upcoming cancer trials. ClinicalTrials.gov lists trials that are connected to NCI, pharmaceutical companies and biotech companies that are for cancer patients as well as patients with other medical conditions.
  • NCI Trials listed with NCI may be associated with NCI, NCTN, NCORP or ETCTN and may take place in the US, Canada or internationally.

Is Trial Support Offered?

Many cancer advocacy groups offer support to both participants and their families during a clinical trial. Patient advocacy, education and financial assistance are all available to help patients and families with cancer, treatments, trials and survivorship. By offering trial support, these advocacy organizations are helping current and future cancer patients and their families lead happier and healthier lives.

How do I get into clinical cancer trials?

Patients or doctors can inquire about participation in a cancer clinical trial. Reaching out to the trial organizers, providing the patient’s medical information and finding out the requirements for clinical trial matching can all lead to potentially joining a clinical cancer trial.


Is it good to be in a cancer clinical trial?

For many cancer patients, participating in a clinical trial can give hope to those fighting cancer. The research outcomes can potentially help patients in the trial as well as future cancer patients.


How do people find out about clinical trials?

Patients and their families can learn how to find a clinical trial by contacting their doctors, searching trial listing services and reviewing NCI-supported trials on their website.


What percentage of cancer clinical trials are successful?

Depending on the type of cancer and the stage of the clinical trial, success rates for oncology trials can fall between 81% and 3.5%.