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Clinical Trials

Not all clinical trials involve testing a new drug or treatment.  Some are observational, meaning they examine treatments that are already approved and being used for various health issues.


For clinical trials involving life-saving treatment, such as cancer treatment, participants are offered, at a minimum, the current standard therapy.   In other words, you wouldn't receive a treatment that hasn't already been proven to be as effective as conventional treatments such as chemotherapy or radiation therapy.


Here are some pros and cons of participating in a clinical trial.

Possible Benefits

  • You will have access to a new treatment that is not available to people outside the trial

  • The research team will most likely watch you closely than a standard healthcare team

  • If the treatment being studied is more effective than the standard treatment you may be among the first to benefit.

  •  The trial may help scientists learn more about cancer and help people in the future

Possible Risks

  • The new treatment may not be better than the standard treatment

  • New treatments may have side effects that doctors do not expect or that are worse than those of the standard treatment

  • You may be required to make more visits to the doctor than if you were receiving standard treatment. You may also have extra expenses related to these extra visits, such as travel, housing, and childcare costs

  • You may need extra tests. Some of the tests could be uncomfortable or time consuming

  • Even if a new treatment benefits some patients, it may not for you

  • Since the treatment is relatively new, there may be long term side effects that haven't been determined yet

Working at home

Be sure to ask your doctor if there are clinical trials that would be suitable for you. If your doctor offers you a trial, here are some questions you will want to ask:

  1. What is the purpose of the trial?

  2. Why do the researchers believe that the treatment being studied may be better than the one being used now?

  3. How long will I be in the trial?

  4. What kinds of tests and treatments are involved?

  5. How will the doctor know if the treatment is working?

  6. How will I be told about the trial’s results?

  7. How long do I have to make up my mind about joining this trial?

  8. Who can I speak with about questions I have during and after the trial?

  9. Who will be in charge of my care?

  10. What are the possible side effects or risks of the new treatment?

  11. What are the possible benefits?

  12. How do the possible risks and benefits of this trial compare to those of the standard treatment?

  13. How will my health information be kept private?

  14. What happens if I decide to leave the trial?

  15. How could the trial affect my daily life?

For a good website to find clinical trials in Canada, click here. 

If you're in the US, click here.

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