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 enter clinical trials do so after hearing about them from their doctors. Many cancer patients actively look for clinical trials on the Internet 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 you should know about several resources. These resources can be divided into 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 study you are interested in, you will probably be able to find it on a list. The list will often include a description of the 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 that 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.

Clinical trials matching services

Over the past few years, 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 allow you to 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 may have had. When given this information, these systems can find clinical trials for which you may be eligible, and save you the time and effort of reading descriptions of studies that are not relevant to you. Some groups also allow you to subscribe to mailing lists so that you are informed 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. Because of this, there may be 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 work a little differently, be sure you understand how the service you are looking at operates. Ask the following questions. Note that the answers do not 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 through the Internet or by telephone?

The American Cancer Society Clinical Trials Matching Service: The American Cancer Society helps patients 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.

After reviewing the available matching services, the American Cancer Society now works with eviti, Inc. to provide a free, confidential, and reliable matching and referral service for patients looking for clinical trials. 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 at cancer centers running each of the studies.

The TrialCheck® database, maintained by eviti, Inc., is a comprehensive database that includes the National Cancer Institute and industry trials. To our knowledge, this is the most complete matching database of cancer clinical trials available. You can access the TrialCheck system through our Web site, www.cancer.org, or through a toll-free number, 1-800-303-5691.

Other clinical trials lists and matching services: 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 Web site 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.

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

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 are sponsoring on their Web sites 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 are interested in research on a particular experimental treatment and know which company is developing it.


Last Medical Review: 09/21/2012
Last Revised: 09/21/2012