Joining a Clinical Trial

When should you consider a clinical trial?

There are many different circumstances where you may consider a clinical trial. Participating in a clinical trial may be an option you choose even if you have the option of other active treatments. Alternatively, you may have already tried the standard treatment or there may be no further options for active treatment available. Clinical trials look at new ways to prevent, detect, or treat a disease. Treatments might be drugs already approved for use but in different combinations, or new surgical procedures or devices. These trials can also look at other aspects of care, such as improving the quality of life.

Before you consider joining a clinical trial, you should understand the standard treatment for your condition and the treatment options that you have. Next, you should weigh the advantages and the disadvantages of joining a clinical trial and decide whether the payoff is worth the risks that are inherent in clinical trials. You should also check out Clinical Trials: the facts to clear up any misconceptions you may have about clinical trials.

People with an illness or disease participate in investigator-led clinical trials not only to help others, but also to potentially receive the newest treatment, as well as to have the additional care and attention from clinical trial staff. Patients are taking an increasingly active role in managing their health and, as partners in research, your participation is invaluable.

Advantages of participating in a clinical trial

  • Access to new or different combination treatments that are not available to the general public and may be more effective.
  • Playing an active role in your treatment
  • Obtaining the research treatment at no cost during the trial
  • Close follow-up and medical care at a leading institution
  • Contributing to the development of future life-saving or life-enhancing treatments

Disadvantages of participating in a clinical trial

  • The possibility of unexpected side effects from the treatment
  • More frequent visits to the hospital or doctor’s rooms
  • The research treatment may not be more effective than the standard treatment or may not work
  • If the trial involves a comparison between two or more groups, you may be in a control group that, depending on the specific trial design, receives the standard treatment, a placebo or no treatment rather than the research treatment

How do I join a clinical trial?

Step 1: Find a clinical trial

If you are interested in joining a clinical trial, doing your own research about available clinical trials can make you aware of what options are out there, including options your specialist may not be aware of. The first step in joining a clinical trial is to browse through the list of clinical trials available in the ALTG clinical trials list page. The Australia New Zealand Clinical Trials Registry (ANZCTR) is another searchable registry of trials that you may want to browse.

Step 2: Determine your suitability

Each trial has specific eligibility criteria as not all patients can participate in the trial, depending on the research question and treatments involved. In the chapter “Eligibility” of each trial recorded in the ANZCTR, you will find the list of the criteria you must meet to participate in that trial. The link to the ANZCTR record of each of our trials is available on our trials list page. As the criteria can contain a lot of technical terms, Cancer Australia published a glossary that might help you read the report. Also, do not hesitate to get some help from your specialist.

Step 3: Consult your specialist

To be register into a clinical trial, you will need to talk to your specialist who will be able to recruit you if you meet the eligibility requirements. Cancer Australia has a helpful Question Prompt List that can help guide you through your discussion with your specialist.