4 Questions to Ask Before Joining a Cancer Research Trial

Have you wondered whether there might be a new or different cancer treatment option available to you through cancer research trials? Or maybe your doctor has talked to you about the possibility of participating in a clinical trial for your cancer treatment. (Read more to understand “What is a Clinical Trial?”) Here are four things that patients and family members should feel free to ask their oncologist and research team before agreeing to participate.

1. Am I Qualified to Participate in a Clinical Trial?

You may have done some research online and discovered that cancer research trials could be a reasonable option as your treatment plan. But before you spend time contemplating a clinical trial, you must first find out if you would qualify to participate. All cancer clinical trials have requirements for those who are allowed to join the study. Each trial is different, and there are only specific types of cancer and stages that can participate in each one. If the trial you found isn’t right for you, there may be a different one that would work better. To see if you can be placed in a trial the research team will need to find out:

  • Your age
  • Type and stage of cancer
  • Your history of previous cancer treatments
  • Your overall medical history

Based on that information they can determine whether a conversation about participating in the trial is possible.

2. What’s the Purpose of This Cancer Research Study?

If the research team determines you’re eligible for a trial, the next thing you should discuss with your oncologist is why the study is being conducted and what it entails. Some research trials are testing new doses or combinations of existing cancer treatments to get better results. Other trials may be studying a drug that’s approved to treat a different type of cancer that is also expected to show good results in your type of cancer. And some trials examine the results of a new medicine that’s nearly ready for FDA approval. For each trial there’s a very specific set of things they’re looking at and the research team can share that with you.

In all cases you will be receiving cancer treatment. There are no placebos given to humans in cancer research.

Before starting any type of cancer research trial you will sign paperwork that states you understand this and are giving your consent to participate. You’ll never be added to a study without your knowledge and permission.

3. Will It Cost Me Anything to Participate?

Many patients considering participating in medical trials are surprised to learn that there may be costs associated with participating. If you have health insurance, your policy will probably cover costs such as regular doctor visits, hospitalizations, standard cancer treatments and lab tests you’d receive whether you were in a trial or not.

Costs directly related to the research often are not covered by insurance, but the pharmaceutical companies conducting the study will typically cover the costs of additional visits, labs or other study requirements that aren’t typical for insurance to cover. They will also usually cover the cost of the pharmaceuticals that are being studied.

However, since each study is different you should be sure to discuss costs before signing a consent form.

4. What Happens If I Have a Poor Response While On This Clinical Trial?

Your recovery from cancer is our No. 1 priority at Maryland Oncology. When you participate in a cancer clinical trial, your cancer care team will monitor your health every step of the way. If it appears you’re not improving while participating in a trial, your team will meet to discuss alternatives for starting a different treatment regimen.

Maryland is home to the world-renowned National Cancer Institute (NCI), and the oncologists at Maryland Oncology regularly evaluate patients to determine which NCI studies may be beneficial. If you’re interested in learning about cancer clinical trials, your first step is to make an appointment at your nearest Maryland Oncology Hematology  location. The oncologists will research studies specific for your type of cancer and explain your options.