Cancer Immunotherapy

Understanding Clinical Trials

The number of clinical trials evaluating cancer immunotherapy agents has skyrocketed in the past decade, and knowledge gained from this research is fueling dramatic treatment advances. New types of immunotherapy, including CAR T-cell therapies and immune checkpoint inhibitors, continue to earn FDA approval for more types of cancer. Such progress is one of many reasons to ask your health care team if you’re an eligible candidate for a trial.

As you consider participating in a clinical trial, you’ll receive instructions and an Informed Consent form. This form explains the purpose of the study, how the trial will work, potential risks and benefits, possible side effects, safety measures and other information, including what will be expected of you.

Before you sign the form, contact your insurance provider to find out the procedures that are covered and those you may be required to pay out-of-pocket. Although most clinical trials cover research-related costs, other expenses may be your responsibility. This information is best to know before the trial begins.

Three important things to remember:

  1. Additional monitoring and care, including increased testing, visits and reporting, will occur throughout and may continue after the trial.
  2. By participating in a clinical trial, you will not jeopardize your care.
  3. Participating in a clinical trial is voluntary. You may leave the trial at any point before or during the trial and return to standard of care treatment.

How to Search for a Clinical Trial

Part of advocating for your care includes researching clinical trials on your own in addition to asking your health care team. However, navigating online search tools can often be frustrating. To help you know what to expect, screenshots of a mock search site for clinical trials are shown below with step-by-step instructions.

Before you begin, have your exact diagnosis, pathology report and details of previous treatments handy. If you don’t find a clinical trial that’s a good fit, know that new ones are continually added. You may choose to keep searching while moving ahead with your current treatment plan.

If you’re interested in a clinical trial that no longer accepts participants, your doctor may be able to appeal to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for expanded access, also known as “compassionate use.”