Colorectal Cancer

Clinical Trials

As medical and scientific teams continue to learn more about how colorectal cancer begins and spreads, they test new and improved treatments by conducting clinical trials. Once thought of as a last resort, clinical trials are increasingly becoming considered as a first treatment option. Advances made as a result of these trials bring more hope to people whose lives are affected by colorectal cancer.

Clinical trials evaluate new methods for improving different areas of cancer care. Many research studies are underway for all stages of colorectal cancer. Some are identifying drug therapies to treat genetic mutations. Others are focused on better screening methods for prevention and early detection. Still others are evaluating the benefits of certain drug therapies used alone, in combination with other therapies or in a different order.

Receiving your cancer treatment through a clinical trial may offer these benefits:

  • Access to state-of-the-art cancer treatment that is not available outside a clinical trial.
  • A high level of care from being monitored by the clinical trial’s medical team in addition to your regular oncologist and health care team.
  • A role in advancing cancer research by helping to improve treatment options for future patients.

Clinical trials are carefully planned, structured and highly regulated for the safety of all participants. However, as with any cancer treatment, a clinical trial presents potential risks and side effects. It may require more tests and/or medical appointments than you would ordinarily have scheduled. Ask in advance to make sure you’ll be able to rearrange your schedule of work, school, family commitments and other obligations to accommodate the appointments required to meet the trial’s protocol.

As you and your doctor discuss the potential treatment option of a clinical trial, keep in mind that many trials take place at the same time in a variety of locations, making it difficult for your doctor to know about all of them. It takes research, and that’s where you come in. While your health care team is exploring potential trials, you can look for them, too. Start by educating yourself about clinical trials using trusted resources such as this guide. Then, from the comfort of your home, look for clinical trials you may qualify for using online clinical trial search sites.

Navigating some search sites can be confusing. To help prepare you, we’ve created mock screens below to show you what you may see as you look for a trial that may apply to you.

When you find a clinical trial that you may qualify for, print out the information and talk with your doctor about it.

How to Search for a Clinical Trial

Before you begin, have your exact diagnosis, pathology report and details of your previous cancer treatments on hand to help determine if you meet the basic eligibility criteria. Then, start by using the list of clinical trial sites below. Your doctor may recommend additional sites. 


Enter Your Diagnosis

For example, enter “colon cancer.” To further customize the search, select applicable eligibility criteria, such as age and gender, on the results screen.

Desired Location

If you prefer a clinical trial close to home, enter your home address. Enter additional locations if you’re willing and able to travel for treatment.

Other Terms

You can refine your search even more by adding a particular treatment type or genomic mutation. You can also add a National Clinical Trial identifier, which is a unique eight-digit code preceded by “NCT” that is assigned to each trial.


Recruitment Status

This indicates whether the trial is actively seeking patients, not yet recruiting or is otherwise inactive. The status will change, so check for updates.

Summary of Study

Here you’ll find details about the purpose of the clinical trial and the treatment being studied. This section is usually written for health care providers, so it may be difficult to interpret. In that case, print out the information to discuss with your doctor.

Eligibility Criteria

This outlines the criteria you must meet to be eligible for the trial, such as the stage of disease, sites of metastasis, overall health requirements and previous treatment. Discuss any questions you may have about qualifying for clinical trials.

Contacts and Locations

This may contain contact information for the clinical trial investigators, staff or sponsors, who may be able to provide more details about the study.


This is the entity responsible for the clinical trial. It may be a pharmaceutical or biotechnology company, a university, the National Cancer Institute or others.