Entering Clinical Trials

Entering a clinical trial Adapted with permission from the Hamilton Regional Cancer Centre, Cancer Care Ontario.

Every clinical trial is different. If you are thinking about taking part in a trial, you will be given specific information about that trial.

Your cancer doctor will know what clinical trials are available to you. During your appointment, your doctor will talk to you about the kinds of treatments that are used to treat your type of cancer. One of your options may be to take part in a clinical trial. If your doctor does not discuss a clinical trial with you, you can ask what clinical trials are available for people with your type of cancer.

The doctor in charge of a clinical trial is called the Principal Investigator. The Principal Investigator of a clinical trial may not be your doctor, but all of the doctors work together. If you are eligible for a trial, and want to learn more about it, you will meet with a Clinical Trials Nurse or Clinical Research Associate. You will be given information explaining the trial, the treatment plan, the risks and benefits, as well as other treatments that may be available. Your cancer doctor or Clinical Research Associate will answer your questions. You will be asked to think about your options and discuss them with your family, friends and your other doctors.

If your doctor discusses a clinical trial with you, you will be given a document called an Informed Consent Form. This document describes the general goals, treatments and possible side effects involved in participating in the trial. You will be able to take it home to review on your own time and be able to discuss and review it with anyone of your choosing including your family, friends or other doctors.

If you decide to take part in the trial, you will be asked to sign the Informed Consent Form. As well, your treating oncologist and the clinical research associate or nurse who discussed the trials will also sign it. Once signed, this enables you to be more fully assessed to make sure that you meet all conditions of the trial. This may include extra blood tests, x-rays or other tests. Once your doctor knows the test results and confirms that you are eligible, you will be enrolled. Your treatment will start after you are enrolled in the trial.

Clinical trials often compare different types of treatment to see if patients respond better to one or another. You may receive the new treatment, or the standard recommended treatments given at the cancer centre for your type of cancer. You will not be able to choose which treatment you will receive. You may be asked to fill out diaries or questionnaires to help keep track of any side effects. You may be followed more often by members of the team than if you were not on a trial since some trials require more visits. All patients, whether in a clinical trial or not, are seen as often as they need to be.

You should remember that you can always say no to any clinical trial. You can also stop taking part in the trial without it affecting your care. You can stop the clinical trial right away if the side effects become too severe, or if you decide you do not want to continue the treatment. Your cancer doctor will be monitoring your progress all through the clinical trial. Each trial has very strict guidelines to assess the effectiveness and safety of the treatments that must be followed.  If the treatment is not working for you as expected, or has too many side effects, your doctor will be required to take you off the trial. Your cancer doctor will then discuss all other treatment options with you.

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