Learn About Cancer Clinical Trials
Myths & Facts About Cancer Clinical Trials
Patient fears about experimental treatments, placebos, unnecessary testing, cost
of care, and access are among the biggest barriers to enrollment in cancer
clinical trials. Many of these fears are unfounded and are strong enough in the
general population to slow down the pace of cancer research. Here’s a look at
some of the myths that surround cancer clinical trials, in hopes that accurate
information will help increase cancer clinical trial participation.
Myth: Patients in cancer clinical trials are treated like guinea pigs.
Fact: 97% of people in one survey said they were treated with
dignity and respect. They also reported that the care was very good.
Myth: Cancer clinical trial patients are given sugar pills.
Fact: Patients who join clinical trials are given the best
cancer treatment options available or the chance to receive a new treatment being considered.
Sugar pills (also called placebos) are rarely used in cancer clinical trials
and are never used in place of treatment.
Myth: Health insurance will not cover the costs of a cancer clinical trial.
Fact: Many insurers cover the normal costs of treatment on
cancer clinical trials, and many states have mandatory coverage. Check with
your doctor or insurance plan to see if you are covered.
Myth: Medicare does not cover the patient care costs of
cancer clinical trials.
Fact: Medicare has been covering these costs since June 2000.
Generally, cancer treatment and diagnostic trials are covered if they are
funded by the National Cancer Institute (NCI), NCI-Designated Cancer Centers,
cancer cooperative groups, or other federal agencies that fund cancer research.
For up-to-date information on Medicare and cancer clinical trials, visit the
federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (formerly the Health
Care Financing Administration).
Myth: Cancer clinical trials cost more than standard cancer treatment.
Fact: Not necessarily. Studies by groups including the
American Association of Cancer Institutes, Kaiser Permanente, Mayo Clinic, and
Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center have found that routine care for
patients in trials is comparable to costs for patients not in trials.
Myth: You need to be near a big hospital to take part in a cancer clinical trial.
Fact: Many cancer clinical trials take place at local
hospitals. Some also take place at local cancer clinics and doctor’s offices.
Myth: Informed consent is meant primarily to protect the
legal interests of researchers.
Fact: The purpose of informed consent is to protect
cancer clinical trial participants by giving them information that can help them make informed
choices about whether to take part in research. It also makes you aware of your
rights as a participant.
Myth: Signing the informed consent document is the most important part of
Fact: Putting your signature on an informed consent document
is only part of the process. The heart of informed consent is a participant's
ongoing interactions and discussion with researchers and other medical
personnel, both during and after the cancer clinical study.
Myth: Once I sign the consent form, I have to enroll and stay enrolled.
Fact: That is not true. You are free to change your mind and
not participate. You also have the right to leave a cancer clinical trial at any time
for any reason, without giving up access to other treatment.
Myth: I can’t really expect medical personnel to listen to my questions or
keep me informed.
Fact: The research team has a duty to keep you informed and to
make sure you understand the information they provide and answer any questions.
You will be given the name of a key contact person to stay in touch with
throughout the trial. Remember, it is your willingness to participate that
makes cancer clinical research possible.