Clinical Trials: Are They Right for You?

Researchers across the country are working every day to find new and better ways to treat cancer and improve the health of patients like you. Clinical trials are studies that look at new treatments to fight cancer. For example, clinical trials might involve testing new drugs. They may also involve finding better ways to do cancer surgery or give radiation therapy. All of today’s most effective cancer treatments are based on the results of past clinical trials. If your doctor thinks you may benefit he or she may suggest that you take part in a clinical trial to treat your cancer.

Will I be a guinea pig?
The fear of being a guinea pig is a common concern among patients. Many patients fear that they might be tested or experimented on without their best interests in mind. In fact, this is not the case. Clinical trials are carefully designed studies that put the health and safety of the patient first.

Are clinical trials only for patients who have no other treatment options?
No. Clinical trials can be for patients who are just starting cancer treatment as well as patients who have been receiving cancer treatment for some time.

Are clinical trials available for all types of cancer?
No. Some patients may find their doctor has no clinical trial currently available for their disease. Also, even if there is a clinical trial available, patients may still find they are not eligible to be in a trial because of factors such as their health condition, stage of cancer, other health problems, or past cancer treatments. Your doctor can tell you more.

Will I be given a placebo on a clinical trial?
Another concern of some patients is that they will get a placebo. A placebo is a look-alike pill or treatment that contains no medicine. When no standard treatment exists for a cancer, some studies compare a new treatment with a placebo. But placebos are rarely used in cancer treatment trials. If there is a placebo, you will be told ahead of time and your doctor will discuss this with you.

What can I expect if I take part in a clinical trial?
To help you make an informed decision the doctor will sit with you and discuss what the treatment is, what is going to happen, and what your care will be like. This is a good time to discuss with your doctor how the study may affect you and your everyday life.

What is expected of you in a clinical trial is written into an informed consent form. Informed consent means that you must be given all of the facts about a study before you decide whether or not to take part. 
Taking part in a study may require more of your time. This is because you may have more tests and doctor visits than if you were not in the study. But many patients feel the quality of care and attention they get is worth the extra time.

Are there extra costs when you take part in a clinical trial?
In most cases, when a study is developed, researchers try to find ways to pay for the trial. If any tests planned are not standard care, then the clinical trial would pay for those added tests. Also, many insurance companies cover the cost of clinical trials. To find out in advance what costs would be paid in your case, talk to a doctor, nurse or social worker from the study. Also, the consent form will state if there are extra costs.

How are new cancer treatments developed?
The search for new treatments begins in the laboratory. If a treatment looks promising, it is then tested in humans. When this happens, it goes through three phases of testing. At each phase, different research questions are asked. Keep in mind that a clinical trial is one of the final stages of a long and careful research process.

What are the three phases of clinical trials?

Phase 1 Trials

  • Look for the best way to give a new treatment
  • Learn how a new treatment can be given in the safest way
  • Enroll a small number of patients

Phase 2 Trials

  • Find out how the new treatment affects the cancer (Does it shrink the tumor?)
  • 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

How am I protected if I take part in a clinical trial?
It is important to know the development of a new cancer treatment goes through many steps that are part of the research plan. The research plan, often referred to as a protocol, carefully outlines what the study will do, how it will be done, and why it is done. This plan is designed to protect the safety of those who take part in the study. The plan must follow strict guidelines that are monitored by a board called the Institutional Review Board (IRB). The main job of the IRB is to protect the health, safety, and well-being of patients in research.

Can I say no to a clinical trial?
It is okay to say no to a clinical trial. In fact, you can change your mind even after the study starts. Signing a consent form does not mean you must stay in a clinical trial. If you choose to leave the study, you will have the chance to discuss other treatments and care with your doctor.

What should I ask my doctor?
Ask your doctor if there is a clinical trial for you. And if there is, be prepared to ask more questions so you can figure out if taking part in a clinical trial is right for you. If you have trouble coming up with questions, think about how being in a study might affect your everyday life.

Total Cancer Care

Moffitt Cancer Center's Total Cancer Care initiative is an ambitious partnership between patients, doctors and researchers to improve all aspects of cancer prevention and care. Patients participate by donating information and tissue. Researchers use the information to learn about all issues related to cancer and how care can be improved. Physicians use the information to better educate and care for patients.

Total Cancer Care® is Moffitt Cancer Center's comprehensive approach to cancer that enables researchers and caregivers to identify and meet all the needs of a patient and their family during the patient's lifetime and for future generations.

What makes Total Cancer Care so effective is its comprehensive approach.

Total Cancer Care combines information technology, research and patient care that can be “personalized” by matching the patient to the precise treatment. Personalized care means treatment plans are individualized to the patient’s specific needs. Treatment and care come in one package. Total Cancer Care encompasses quality patient care with cutting edge research.

  • Patients enroll at Total Cancer Care affiliated hospitals and doctors' offices.
  • Patients donate clinical information and excess tumor samples and body fluids not needed for their care.
  • Data is stored and may be analyzed by researchers for biological or clinical elements that may advance the care and treatment of cancer.
  • Doctors may contact patients again if new information is discovered that could help in their care, including possible clinical studies.

Total Cancer Care is an ambitious partnership between patients, doctors and researchers to improve all aspects of cancer prevention and care. Patients participate by donating information and tissue. Researchers use the information to learn about all issues related to cancer and how care can be improved. Physicians use the information to better educate and care for patients.

Research Science

Moffitt strives to be the leader in understanding the complexity of cancer through team science and applying those insights for human benefit. Moffitt employs about 800 research faculty scientists, career staff scientists, postdocs, graduate students and support staff dedicated to cancer research.

Moffitt is proud to be one of only 45 National Cancer Institute (NCI) designated cancer centers in the country and the only one based in Florida. NCI designation is the highest recognition of quality cancer research spanning population, basic and translational sciences.

Moffitt is one of the few remaining free-standing cancer centers in the country. Our dedication to serve the community and our singular focus on cancer drives our success. Our significant contributions to the prevention and cure of cancer are based in compassion for our patients, an emphasis on collaboration and a culture of scientific excellence.

Conflict of Interest


Programs and Teams

Our research programs and teams focus on scientific themes, which together provide Moffitt’s strong, multidimensional approach to defeating cancer.  

Learn more about our five Programs and four Teams & Working Groups.


Moffitt’s research departments are typically discipline-based and focus on the career development of our faculty from appointment to tenure. Academic appointments include the ranks of assistant member, associate member and senior member. Due to medical group requirements, M.D.s, whether they perform clinical activities full time or are physician-scientists, are appointed to one of 15 academic clinical departments in the Clinical Science division. Ph.D. faculty members are appointed to one of the research departments within the Basic Science or Population Science divisions. Departments are led by a department chair.

Technology and Cores

Shared Resources, also called Cores, were developed at Moffitt Cancer Center to meet the needs of the cancer center’s scientific community. The functions of Shared Resources represent a vital component for the cancer center’s research enterprise and a significant component of the Cancer Center Support Grant (CCSG).

Shared Resources provide Moffitt investigators access to technologies, highly skilled services and scientific consultation at reasonable costs to facilitate scientific interaction and productivity. The Core facilities are conveniently located on Moffitt’s main campus, at the center of the cancer center’s basic science and translational research initiatives.


Moffitt has a legislative mandate to foster relationships throughout Florida. In addition, the National Cancer Institute expects us to conduct research relevant to the community and to collaborate with other institutions. Moffitt’s extensive research partnerships reflect a longstanding commitment to working with others in the fight against cancer.