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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: 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: Signing the informed consent document is the most important part of the process.
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.