Myths and Facts About Clinical Trials

Myth: Cancer patients do not enroll in clinical trials because they believe they are unsafe or too risky.
Fact:   Eight-five percent of respondents to a Harris Interactive Survey reported that they were unaware that a cancer clinical trial was even a treatment option, and 75 percent of these individuals said that they would have been willing to enroll if they knew it was an option.

Myth: Clinical trial patients are treated like guinea pigs.
Fact:   Ninety-seven percent of survey respondents who participated in clinical trials reported that they were treated with dignity and respect and received excellent or good quality care.

Myth: If I participate in a cancer clinical trial, then I may receive inferior treatment.
Fact:   It is now well documented that patients who participate in cancer clinical trials have outcomes as good as, if not better than, those who do not participate, even if they get the best standard therapy.

Myth: Clinical trial patients receive placebos (sugar pills).
Fact:   Placebos are rarely used in cancer clinical trials, and they are not used in place of the best-known treatment for a given cancer.

Myth: Insurance will not cover the costs of a clinical trial.
Fact:   Eight-six percent of survey respondents who enrolled in cancer clinical trials reported that their costs were covered by their insurance plan. A number of insurers and states have developed voluntary programs to cover the routine care costs of cancer clinical trials. Some states have or are working toward mandatory coverage of these costs.

Myth: Medicare does not cover the costs of participation in a clinical trial.
Fact:   An executive memorandum issued in June 2000 directs Medicare to cover the patient costs of a trial.

Myth: I can only participate in a trial if I have access to a major medical institution.
Fact:   Clinical trials are conducted at academic centers and community oncology practices throughout the country.

*Information courtesy of the Coalition of National Cancer Cooperative Groups, Results based on the 2000 Harris Interactive Survey.

 Other Facts About Clinical Trials

  • Most breakthrough cancer drugs are developed in clinical trials. Without clinical trials, no new medicines or therapies can be approved for use in people.
  • More cancer patients are realizing that participating in a cancer clinical trial is not a last resort but rather a wise consideration at the beginning of treatment that can make a significant difference in how their disease will be managed.
  • All clinical trials must be fully explained to patients who want to take part. These patients must sign an informed consent form. Signing an informed consent form means you understand the risks involved with the clinical trial. The informed consent form is not a contract.
  • The clinical trial treatment may cause side effects. If doctors think a treatment is hurting you, the treatment will be stopped.
  • Among clinical trial patients, 48 percent worry most about getting the placebo (no treatment). Clinical trials that are testing treatments for life-threatening diseases or conditions will rarely use a placebo group, meaning all patients will get some kind of treatment—either the new treatment or the standard treatment.
  • Taking part in a clinical trial is always completely voluntary. You may quit a clinical trial at any time.
  • Patients at the Hughes Cancer Center have participated in nearly 30 clinical trials.
  • The Center continues to receive approvals to participate in cancer-related studies including two new genetic research clinical trials-one of which will focus on colorectal cancer.
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