Anyone with a cancer diagnosis wants to receive the most advanced care. How do innovative treatments develop? Through scientific research that assesses whether new treatments are safe, more effective, involve less treatment, or have fewer side effects in comparison to the current standard of care. This research is referred to as "clinical trials" or "clinical studies," which are considered the gold standard for developing the newest, most cutting-edge treatments and diagnostic assessments.
Through clinical studies, participants may access new treatments (medical treatments, radiation therapy, surgery, supportive care, prevention) before those options are made widely available. But part of the reason scientists conduct clinical studies is that they honestly do not know whether these new interventions will be effective – although they are very hopeful. So, as a participant, you may have a direct benefit from study therapies. But you may not. However, even if you do not benefit personally, other patients will benefit from the knowledge gained by our participation. The end result is advancing cancer care and may help you personally before others have the opportunity to benefit.
Common misconceptions that prevent potential volunteers from joining clinical trials
Many factors – some true, and some false – can influence a patient’s decision to participate in a clinical trial. Due to the significance of these vital research studies, it’s essential to separate fact from fiction so that potential volunteers can make fully informed decisions about whether to participate. Here are some of the most common myths along with the corresponding facts:
- Myth: Some clinical trial participants unknowingly receive only a placebo therapy, which will stall their treatment and put them at risk.
Fact: Cancer patients are not assigned to placebo only treatments. A placebo may be combined with a standard active therapy but never alone. So the trial will compare a known active standard treatment with the study treatment. No one is ever given a treatment that is known to be without potential benefit.
- Myth: Cancer clinical trials are only for patients who have no other options.
Fact: While some studies are specifically designed for patients who have exhausted all of their other treatment options, many clinical trials are appropriate for patients who have early-stage cancer, have not yet started treatment or are in other situations.
- Myth: Clinical trials are not safe.
Fact: There are multiple safeguards in place to protect clinical trial volunteers. These include careful study design, ensuring that participants understand the study and give their consent, ongoing participant monitoring, independent expert review of study data and oversight by institutional review boards. Clinical study participants are very closely monitored by their treatment teams throughout the course of a study, and participants are permitted to withdraw at any time for any reason.
If you’d like to learn more about clinical trials, you can talk with an oncologist at Moffitt Cancer Center. Call 1-888-663-3488 or complete our new patient registration form online. We do not require referrals.