Clinical Trials: What You Need to Know

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What’s out there? Finding clinical trials

People find out about clinical trials in different ways. Most people who take part in clinical trials do so after hearing about them from their doctors. But you don’t have to wait for your doctor to recommend a clinical trial. Many people with cancer actively look for clinical trials online or in other places, hoping to find more options for treatment. Some clinical trials are advertised directly to patients.

If you already have a particular clinical trial in mind, you may want to go to the section called “How do I figure out which study is for me?” to learn what you should know about the study before deciding to enroll in it.

Sources of information about clinical trials

At this time there’s no one source to find out about all of the cancer clinical trials enrolling patients. But there are several resources you should know about. There are 2 main types: clinical trials lists and clinical trials matching services.

Clinical trial lists

These sources give you the names and descriptions of clinical trials of new treatments. If there’s a certain study you’re interested in, you will probably be able to find it on a list. Lists will often include a description of each study, the criteria for patient eligibility, and a contact person. If you (or your health care providers) are willing and able to read through descriptions of all the studies listed for your cancer type, then a list may be all you need. Some organizations provide services that can help you narrow the list a little, according to the kind of treatment you are looking for (chemotherapy, immunotherapy, radiation therapy, etc.) and the stage of your cancer.

Some sources for clinical trials lists

The National Cancer Institute (NCI) sponsors most government-funded cancer clinical trials. The NCI has a list of active studies (those currently enrolling patients), as well as some privately funded studies. You can find the list on their website at www.cancer.gov/clinicaltrials/or by calling 1-800-4-CANCER (1-800-422-6237). You can search the list by the type and stage of cancer, by the type of study (for example, treatment or prevention), or by zip code.

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has an even larger database of clinical trials at www.clinicaltrials.gov, but not all of these are cancer studies.

CenterWatchSM (www.centerwatch.com) is a publishing and information services company that keeps a list of both industry-sponsored and government-funded clinical trials for cancer and other diseases.

Private companies, such as pharmaceutical or biotechnology firms, may list the studies they’re sponsoring on their websites or offer toll-free numbers so you can call and ask about them. Some of these firms also offer matching systems for the studies they sponsor. This can be helpful if you’re interested in research on a particular experimental treatment and know which company is developing it.

Clinical trials matching services

Several organizations have developed computer-based systems to match patients with studies they may be eligible for. This service is often offered online.

Each may differ somewhat in how it works. Some of the services let you search for clinical trials without registering at the site. If you have to register, they usually assure you that your information will be kept confidential. Either way, you’ll probably have to enter certain details, such as the type of cancer, the stage of the disease, and any previous treatments you have had. Using this information, matching services can find clinical trials you might be eligible for, and save you the time and effort of reading descriptions of studies that aren’t relevant to you. Some services also let you subscribe to mailing lists so that you are told as new studies open up.

Although they are usually free to users, most clinical trial matching services get paid for listing studies or get a finder’s fee from those running the studies when someone enrolls. It’s important to know this because it may lead to some differences in the way they rank the studies, or the order in which they present the studies to you.

How to choose a clinical trials matching service

Because each of these services works a little differently, be sure you understand how the service you are looking at operates. Ask the following questions. Note that the answers don’t necessarily mean that the service is not worth using; it’s just information you may want to have before you decide to use them.

  • Is there a fee for using the service?
  • Do I have to register to use the service?
  • Does the service keep my information confidential?
  • Where does the service get its list of clinical trials?
  • Does the service rank the studies in any particular order? Is this based on fees they get?
  • Can I contact the service online or by phone?

Some sources for clinical trials matching services

The American Cancer Society Clinical Trials Matching Service helps people find high quality care in clinical trials that best match their medical needs and personal preferences, while helping researchers study more effective treatments for future patients. The American Cancer Society works with eviti, Inc. to provide a free, confidential, and reliable matching and referral service for patients looking for clinical trials. To our knowledge, this is the most complete matching database of cancer clinical trials available. The clinical trials information provided by the American Cancer Society is not biased in any way. It’s updated every day, as is the contact information that allows patients to get in touch with the doctors and nurses running each of the studies. You can access the American Cancer Society Clinical Trials Matching Service through our website, www.cancer.org, or through our toll-free number, 1-800-303-5691.

EmergingMed provides a free, confidential matching and referral service for cancer patients looking for clinical trials at www.emergingmed.com, or you can call 1-877-601-8601.


Last Medical Review: 09/25/2014
Last Revised: 10/31/2014