Endorsed by the European Oncology Nursing Society

Should I take part in a clinical trial?

Should I take part in a clinical trial? image

Scientists around the world are continually studying cancer. They are developing new ways of treating cancer like new medicines and new surgical procedures.1 If their experiments look promising, new treatments enter a clinical trial, a medical research study during which the safety and effectiveness of new treatments are tested on people.1,2

Clinical trials can test:2

  • New screening or diagnostic methods
  • New treatments or new combinations of existing therapies
  • How to minimise side effects

Your doctor may suggest a clinical trial or you may find one yourself. Before enrolling, find out: 3

  • The aim of the study
  • What treatment involves
  • What you will have to do

The following apply to all clinical trials:

  • They have been approved by a “research ethics committee”4
  • Your eligibility for taking part in certain trials may depend on the stage of your cancer or your age, for instance5
  • You may change your mind and leave at any time during the trial3
  • If tests based on data show the treatment is harmful, the trial can be stopped4
  • All trials will provide medical insurance for the unlikely event that something should go wrong4

Consider all the benefits and risks associated with your particular clinical trial before agreeing to participate.5

  • Potential benefits:5
    • Exclusive access to a new, potentially better, treatment
    • Helping to further our knowledge of cancer and cancer treatments
    • Extra supervision by the research team
  • Potential risks:
    • The tested treatment may not be better than current treatments5
    • Unexpected side effects5
    • Extra testing5
    • You may be put on a placebo, a drug or treatment with no medical effects, instead of a medicine to treat cancer6,7

The person who suggests you take part in a clinical trial will provide you with all the information you need and explain why they have made the suggestion. It may help to talk to family and friends before you decide whether to take part.3



  1. Macmillan. What does a clinical trial involve? Accessed March 2016.
  2. Cancer Research UK. What clinical trials are. Accessed March 2016.
  3. Macmillan. Taking part in a trial. Accessed March 2016.
  4. Macmillan. Can and should I take part? Accessed March 2016.
  5. Cancer.gov. http://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/treatment/clinical-trials/taking-part Accessed March 2016
  6. Cancer.net. http://www.cancer.net/navigating-cancer-care/how-cancer-treated/clinical-trials/placebos-cancer-clinical-trials Accessed July 2016.
  7. Macmillan. How are clinical trials carried out? Accessed March 2016.