Clinical Trials

Online Searches

You are your own best advocate. Though you may be surrounded by a health care team, family members and friends who have opinions about your care, you are the decision maker, so it is key to educate yourself about your options. Now that you know the basics of clinical trials, when is it appropriate to think about participating in one?

Generally, you have several opportunities to consider adding a clinical trial to your treatment plan:

  • At diagnosis
  • When choosing among available treatment options
  • If cancer progresses
  • If the current treatment is no longer performing as expected
  • To reduce the side effects and improve your quality of life

You can explore available trials in the following ways.

Partner with your health care team. At many cancer centers, a clinical trial expert is working behind the scenes to be aware of any clinical trials that may benefit their patients. Ask your doctor if you have someone in that role on your health care team, and let your team know you are open to considering a clinical trial.

Search on your own. Not only does looking for a potential trial offer some control at a time when you may feel like you do not have much, being proactive helps your health care team, too. So many trials take place in so many locations that it is not always possible for them to know about all of them.

To get started, have your exact diagnosis, pathology report and details of previous treatments available. That will help you narrow the list of hundreds of thousands of trials that are currently underway to those that may be a good fit for you. Then, you have two options:

  1. Search online. Many sites offer ways to search for a clinical trial. Some are customized to a certain cancer type; others are much broader. Generally, clinical trial search sites are hosted by the government, the National Cancer Institute, cancer advocacy groups, pharmaceutical companies and industry trade organizations, academic medical centers and major hospitals. No single list contains every open clinical trial, and new trials are continually being added so check back often. You can begin with the Clinical Trial Resources on this page.
  2. Request assistance by phone. Some organizations offer clinical trial assistance by phone. This is a convenient option for people who are not tech-savvy, do not have access to the tools necessary to search online or simply prefer to talk to a person.

Depending on your diagnosis, there could be hundreds of trials to explore. That will take time, so consider taking the “divide and conquer” approach by asking friends and family members to help.

Whether you are online or on the phone, your search will likely begin with several questions to help steer you to clinical trials that may best meet your needs, such as the cancer type, your age, your location and the distance you are willing to travel. Though some people do travel for clinical trials, it is not always necessary. Clinical trials happen in many places, from big cities to small towns. Some may even be accessible through your doctor’s office.

Once you find one or more trials you are interested in, talk with your doctor.

Keep in mind that you may not qualify for every trial that appeals to you. Some may be closed, or you may not qualify for them. Every participant in a specific trial must meet the same eligibility criteria. This ensures the data gathered during the trial is valid.

Common criteria include cancer type, subtype, stage, biomarker status and treatment history. Your age, gender and other health conditions may also be factors. For example, if a trial requires that you have already had a specific treatment and you have not, you will not be eligible.

Under certain extreme conditions, you and your doctor may apply to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to join a clinical trial that is closed or otherwise inaccessible. This is known as Expanded Access, also called Compassionate Use. Talk with your doctor if you believe this may be necessary for your situation.


Help For Finding a Clinical Trials

“The Cancer Support Helpline is staffed by licensed mental health community navigators and resource specialists. They can be reached by phone (888-793-9355) or live chat from Monday through Friday, 9 am to 9 pm ET and Saturday and Sunday, 9 am to 5 pm ET. We also provide seamless referral and linkage to our certified clinical trials navigator. All of our services are available in English, Spanish and over 200 languages.”


~ Aicha Diallo, Senior Director, Cancer Support Helpline, Cancer Support Community

Clinical Trial Resources

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