Clinical Trials

You may have heard of clinical trials or studies. These are scientific tests of new treatments that are being developed that are now at the stage of testing on humans, rather than in laboratories. Trials also look at how existing medicines can be used to treat other conditions.

There may be clinical trials going on that could be right for you and your treatment. If you are interested in being considered for a trial, raise it with your specialist and they can advise on any trials that you might be suitable for you.

Clinical trials are not just used in research on new medications. Other areas include surgical methods, radiation therapy treatments, combination treatments and vaccines.

Every trial has it’s own criteria about who can and can’t participate. Factors such as age, current health and medical history as well as past treatments might all be considerations. If you fall outside of the criteria, you won’t be eligible to take part.


How do they work?

Patients must give their consent to participate in a trial and as a patient, you won’t suffer a reduced standard of care whilst participating in a trial.

Clinical trials aren’t a last chance scenario. You can take part in a trial at any time during your cancer treatment process if it fits in with your current treatment regimen.

A trial looks at a particular ‘scenario’ and how well a new or different treatment method works by comparing it to the current method or best practice. Doctors and researchers monitor patients closely so if you participate in a trial, be prepared to answer additional questions during your treatment and attend more appointments.
What are the benefits and risks of a taking part in a trial?

Understanding both the risks and benefits of a clinical trial is important before you begin. The process will be explained to you but you’ll also be asked to sign a consent form before the trial starts. It’s important to fully understand the trial and its focus before you sign, so you know what the potential risks and benefits are to you.

Possible benefits include:

The treatment might only be available through the trial.

The treatment used in the trial might be more effective than the current standard treatment.

You’ll receive regular and careful attention from doctors and researchers.

Results from the trial might help others in the future.

Possible risks include:

The treatment could cause side effects or risks that the doctors aren’t yet aware of or that they don’t expect.

The trial drugs or treatment might be less effective than the current standard treatment.

If it’s a randomised trial, you will not be able to choose if you get the new treatment or the current standard one.

Check that your health insurance and care provider is aware that you’re taking part in a trial as they might not cover all the costs.

Is it right for me?

A trial is only right for you if you feel comfortable doing it. Talk it through with your GP or specialist to find out the aim of the trial, the possible risks and benefits, and who is sponsoring it.

If you have to travel outside of your area to take part, consider whether you’ll be able to do this without it causing extra stress or effecting your health, as you may need to undergo more treatments than you’re currently having.

Before you consent to a trial you must make sure you check with your health insurer about whether your expenses will be covered and ask for confirmation in writing.

Being optimistic before the start a clinical trial is common. Be aware before you go into a clinical trial that the outcome may not be any different from your current treatment. However some patients take comfort knowing that while a trial may not have helped them personally, their participation has contributed to scientific knowledge and has advanced our progress towards a cure.


Australian Cancer Trials Database

Developed by Cancer Australia the database is available for those who have cancer and are considering taking part in a trial to test a new treatment. It can help you find out more about cancer trials as a basis for discussion with a cancer specialist. It is not a substitute for a discussion.

The site is comprehensive and accurate. It is updated weekly.


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