Clinical Trials

Clinical Trial FAQ

I’m interested. What’s next?
Our staff want you to have all available information before you make a decision. Your doctor will discuss the treatment, what happens next, and what your care will involve. A clinical trials nurse or coordinator also will talk to you about the study’s goals, how it may affect you and what will be expected from you. Patients do not pay to participate in a clinical trial but a study may require more of your time, more tests or both. Some patients think the extra time is a good investment for the additional attention and monitoring given in the study.

You’ll also be asked to sign an informed consent form, acknowledging you have been given all the facts about the study before you decide to participate.

Are you offering a clinical trial because I have a bad cancer?
We offer clinical trials for patients in all phases of treatment. Some trials are specifically for patients who are just starting cancer treatment while others are only for patients whose cancer has recurred.

Is a clinical trial available for every cancer patient?
No. Sometimes, no trial is available for specific cancers or for other reasons. Patients may not be eligible to participate in a clinical trial because of the stage of their cancer, other health conditions or previous cancer therapies. Each study is different and new studies open regularly, so only your doctor or clinical trial nurse can answer that question.

How do you find new cancer treatments?
Years of research precede any clinical trial or new cancer treatment. That research usually begins in a laboratory where scientists look for the process that allows cancer to grow, then for a way to stop it. At the Cancer Institute, its Drug Discovery Core also is looking for new natural products that impede cancer and sending those to scientists to test against different cancers.

After it’s tested in laboratories and has gone through multiple phases of testing, it may be offered in a clinical trial, the final stage of a long process.

What is a clinical trial phase?
Different phases are designed to fulfill a specific purpose.

Phase 1 trials

  • Look for the best way to give a new treatment
  • Learn the safest way to give a new treatment
  • Enroll a small number of patients

Phase 2 Trials

  • Find out how the new treatment affects the cancer
  • Enroll a small number of patients

Phase 3 Trials

  • Test treatments that have shown promise in Phase 1 or 2 trials
  • Enroll hundreds of patients

Phase 4 Trials

  • Look for rare side-effects that may show up only in a larger group of patients or over time.

Am I a guinea pig?
Many patients fear they may be subjected to tests that do not have their best interests at heart. Each clinical trials is designed to carefully answer a medical question while protecting the health and safety of the patient.

Do I have rights in a clinical trial?
Clinical trials are developed through multiple steps that are part of a research plan. You may hear it called a protocol. The protocol outlines the steps in each study and how and why they are done. Protocols are designed to protect study participants. Each study is monitored by an Institutional Review Board, a group whose primary job is to protect the health and safety of study participants.

Does being on a study mean I won’t have side effects?
Unwanted side-effects are possible. In your informed consent document, you’ll find a section that lists potential side-effects and the likelihood they will occur. Members of your care team will want to know if you experience any of them and may have medications to help mitigate those side-effects.

Will I have to pay to participate in a clinical trial?
The people who develop clinical trials try to avoid extra costs for participants. For example, if a trial requires tests that are not standard care, then the clinical trial would pay for those added tests. Some insurance companies cover the cost of clinical trials. A doctor, nurse or coordinator working with your study also may be able to tell you what costs will be paid for your care. Your informed consent form also will show if extra costs are involved. Trials may require more visits to your care team. As you consider participation think about travel time and costs.

Will my doctors be upset if I don’t participate?
Not at all. Your care team realizes this is an intensely personal decision. If you decide to participate and change your mind later, you also can drop out of the study. Your care team will review current therapies offered for your cancer and recommend the one that best suits you. 

For more information

For more UMMC information regarding cancer clinical trials:

  • Adult cancer research and registry - (601) 984-1095
  • Children's hematology/oncology - (601) 984-5220

Learn more about clinical trials at the National Cancer Institute.