Clinical Trials


Every cancer treatment being used today has been part of a clinical trial. Clinical trials allow patients access to treatments before they are approved, and they are considered experimental at that time. If a patient is interested in a clinical trial, it is important to understand the purpose of the study. The treatment being studied is offered to patients who meet certain criteria, with the goal of determining if a therapy, combination of drugs, dosage or procedure is safe; better than the current standard of care; or has other benefits to patients.

Groundbreaking research for immunotherapy is currently underway. One strategy involves adoptive T-cell therapy, in which a patient’s T-cells are removed from his or her own blood or tumor tissue, grown in large numbers in a laboratory, then given back to the patient to help the immune system fight cancer. Types of adoptive cell therapy include tumor-infiltrating lymphocyte (TIL) therapy and chimeric antigen receptor T-cell (CAR T-cell) therapy. Other strategies involve identifying biomarkers to indicate which patients will benefit from immunotherapy, and investigating how age may affect patient response to checkpoint inhibitors. Other clinical trials are testing new immune checkpoint inhibitors, cytokines, oncolytic viruses, innate immune stimulators and new combinations of these agents

As you weigh treatment options, consider clinical trials. Use the resources on this page and in the back of the guide to learn more about this potential option.

  • Clinical trials are medical research studies that are frequently used to test new therapies.
  • All participants enrolled are volunteers.
  • The details of a trial are outlined in the Informed Consent form, which participants must sign before beginning a trial.
  • Participants can withdraw from a clinical trial at any time for any reason.

A clinical trial is a last resort. In some situations, a clinical trial may offer the best option among treatments you’re considering and may even be the first option to consider.

If my doctor doesn’t bring it up, I can’t participate. Thousands of trials take place at the same time, making it very difficult for your doctor to know about every trial. That’s why you’re encouraged to search for a clinical trial on your own.

I’ll have to travel to a major city to take part in a trial. Not necessarily. Although people may travel to take advantage of some trials, more are available all over the country in hospitals, treatment centers and doctors’ offices.

Once I start the trial, I have to finish it. Participation is always voluntary. You may choose to leave the trial at any time, for any reason, and opt for standard-of-care treatment.

I’m too old to be in a clinical trial. Seniors may respond differently to treatment and may develop different side effects. Having them enrolled in a trial helps researchers develop the right treatment for older people.

  • Access to leading-edge treatments that aren’t yet available for your type or stage of disease.
  • Higher level of care because you will be closely monitored by your oncologist and the clinical trial medical team.
  • Being an active partner in your own care.
  • Knowing you are contributing to the future of cancer care.

  • Ask your doctor about available trials for which you may qualify.
  • Search online. Start with this list of clinical trial sites. Depending on your diagnosis, there could be hundreds. Ask friends and family to help.
  • Have your exact diagnosis, pathology report and treatment details available to see if you meet a trial’s criteria.
  • Discuss possible trials with your doctor to determine whether they are an option for you.

  • Should I consider a clinical trial?
  • What tests and treatments are involved?
  • Is travel required to participate?
  • Will you continue to manage my care?
  • Will it affect my daily life, such as my capability to work?
  • How long will the trial last?