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Each study has its own guidelines for who can participate, called eligibility criteria. Generally, participants in a study are alike in key way, such as the type and stage of cancer, age, gender, or previous treatments. The eligibility criteria are included in the study plan. To find out if you are eligible for a particular study, talk to your medical oncologist or current physician to investigate any options available to you.

You will almost always need a physician to refer you to be enrolled into a trial that is being run locally or from a larger hospital. It is important to remember that some hospitals do not have the facilities or expertise to take part in some trials, so it may mean that, if you are able to take part in a research study, you will have to travel to a different hospital. If you have been invited to take part in a clinical trial you may be introduced to a research nurse who can tell you all about the trial and will be able to answer your questions.

Only you can make the decision about whether or not to participate in a clinical trial. Before you make your decision, you should:

  • Learn as much as possible about your disease and the trials that are available to you. Research trial databases for general cancer information, as well as for guidance on how to find current clinical trials that might be appropriate for you.

  • Then, talk about this information and how you feel about it with your doctor and/or nurse, family members and friends to help you determine what is right for you.

Clinical trials are carefully designed to minimize the risks, and maximize the benefits, to all the people who take part, regardless of which treatment they get.

When you take part in a trial you will be monitored carefully during and after the study. You will have regular tests and you may be asked some extra questions about how you are feeling. This will likely mean you will be on a strict visit schedule and seeing your medical oncologist often weekly for varying periods of time, so bear this in mind before you agree to take part.

Potential benefits:

  • Health care provided by leading physicians in the field of cancer research.

  • Access to new drugs and interventions before they are widely available.

  • Close monitoring of your health care and any side effects.

  • A more active role in your own health care.

  • If the approach being studied is found to be helpful, you may be among the first to benefit.

  • An opportunity to make a valuable contribution to cancer research.

Potential risks:

  • New drugs and procedures may have side effects or risks unknown to the doctors.

  • New drugs and procedures may be ineffective, or less effective, than current approaches.

  • Even if a new approach has benefits, it may not work for you.

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