Frequently Asked Questions about Clinical Trials

What are the potential benefits to participating in a clinical trial?

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

What are the potential risks to participating in a clinical trial?

  • 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

How do I know if I am eligible to participate in a clinical trial?
To ensure the strongest results, researchers want study participants to be alike in key ways. Therefore, each study has its own entry criteria that will be clearly stated in the description of the trial.

What is a randomized clinical trial?
A study in which participants are randomly (i.e., by chance) assigned to one of two or more treatment arms of a clinical trial. Occasionally placebos are utilized.

What is a treatment arm?
A treatment arm is any of the treatment groups in a randomized trial. Most randomized trials have two “arms,” but some have three “arms,” or even more.

What is a placebo?
A placebo is an inactive pill, liquid, or powder that has no treatment value. In clinical trials, experimental treatments are often compared with placebos to assess the treatment’s effectiveness.

If I enroll in a clinical trial, will I get a placebo rather than my regular treatment?
No. Obviously, a cancer patient who is in need of treatment would not be given a placebo. However, there are situations where patients have received treatment for their cancer and it is not known whether additional treatment would improve the outcome. In these situations, a portion of a study population may receive a placebo while others are given additional treatment. Such patients are always made aware that they might be receiving a placebo. The potential advantage for the placebo group is they may avoid the toxicity of additional treatment that offers no better outcome than simple observation.

Can I be in more than one clinical trial?
Yes. Whether you are eligible depends on the criteria set for each trial. In some cases, the treatment you had in a prior trial may exclude you from being in a later one using the same or a related treatment. However, being in one clinical trial will not necessarily keep you from being in another one later.

Who pays for my clinical trial participation?
Payment for clinical trial participation depends on your health insurance plan and the particular clinical trial in which you are considering enrollment. Your doctor or research or research office nurse should be able to help answer this question.

The National Cancer Institute offers comprehensive information about insurance coverage for clinical trials that can help you answer this question.

Does being accepted for a clinical trial mean that this is the last resort for me?
Patients on clinical trials are often the first to receive the therapies of tomorrow, the cutting edge of care. An individual’s participation in a clinical trial contributes to our overall understanding of a particular cancer. Today’s improved cancer survival is based on the knowledge accumulated through previous patient participation in clinical trials.


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