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Frequently asked questions

Question: Aren't I just a human guinea pig in a clinical trial?
Answer: No. New tests or treatments are studied in clinical trials when there is good proof that they are at least as good as standard care. Clinical trials also must be carried out according to principles that protect the safety and welfare of patients. Furthermore, patients enrolled in clinical trials receive the best management of care.

Question: Do I have to finish a clinical trial?
Answer: No. You can drop out at any time for any reason.

Question: Am I told everything about a trial before starting?
Answer: Yes. The informed consent form must describe the study in full, including:

  • The trial's purpose,
  • What's required of you,
  • The risks and benefits,
  • Protection of your privacy,
  • Coverage of costs, and
  • Other options for care.

After you start the clinical trial, the research team must tell you about any new information that is related to the clinical trial.

Question: Is a clinical trial only for when there are no other options?
Answer: No. A clinical trial is an option for many patients with different types and stages of cancer.

Question: Can only patients with advanced cancer join a clinical trial?
Answer: No. A clinical trial is an option for many patients with different types and stages of cancer.

Question: What is randomization?
Answer: Randomization means assigning patients by chance to a treatment group. The chance of being assigned to one of two groups is like whether a baby is a boy or a girl. The odds for a boy are the same as for a girl—50/50. Randomization ensures that the people in all groups are alike. Phase III clinical trials often use randomization.

Question: What is clinical equipoise?
Answer: Clinical equipoise is the uncertainty of which treatment is better. This is the ethical basis for randomization in clinical trials.

Question: What is a placebo?
Answer: A placebo is an inactive medicine. People do not get better from the properties of a placebo.

Question: What is the placebo effect?
Answer: The placebo effect is a positive response after taking a placebo. The positive response is mostly likely caused by a person's faith in the treatment.

Question: How often are placebos used in cancer clinical trials?
Answer: Almost never. Placebos are used when there is no standard of care to which the new treatment can be compared. You will be told if a placebo is used in a clinical trial.

Question: Can I know which treatment I am getting?
Answer: Yes, but after the clinical trial is over. During the trial, you are "blinded" so your results won't be affected by bias.

Question: What costs do I have to pay for in a clinical trial?
Answer: It depends on the clinical trial, your health insurance, and the state you live in. It is important to learn what costs of care, if any, you must pay for during a clinical trial. Your treatment team and the research team can help.

Question: What happens to me when the clinical trial is over?
Answer: You will continue to receive care from your treatment team. You may be able to stay on the study drug but this doesn't happen often.