• What are the pros and cons of participating in a clinical trial?

    Asked by MarktheMan on Wednesday, May 8, 2013

    What are the pros and cons of participating in a clinical trial?

    I have been reading about some, trying to decide if I would want to go in one if needed.

    3 Answers from the Community

    • Becky@UMich's Avatar
      Becky@UMich RN, BS, OCN, Cancer AnswerLine Nurse

      Hi Mark, Whenever someone needs treatment for cancer, clinical trials may be an option. Deciding to join a clinical trial is something only you, those close to you, and your doctors can decide together.

      A great resource of information about deciding to take part in a clinical trial is available from the National Cancer Institute (NCI). Go to: http://www.cancer.gov/clinicaltrials/learningabout/deciding-to-take-part

      Per the NCI- listed below are some things to consider:

      Possible benefits
      •Clinical trials offer high-quality cancer care. If you are in a study and do not receive the new treatment being tested, you will receive the best standard treatment. This may be as good as or better than the new approach.
      •If a new treatment approach is proven to work and you are taking it, you may be among the first to benefit.
      •By looking at the pros and cons of clinical trials and your other treatment choices, you are taking an active role in a decision that affects your life.
      •You have the chance to help others and improve cancer treatment.

      Possible drawbacks
      •New treatments under study are not always better than or even as good as standard care. The treatment may have side effects that doctors do not expect or that are worse than those of standard treatment.
      •Even if a new treatment has benefits, it may not work for you. Even standard treatments, proven effective for many people, do not help everyone.
      •If you receive standard treatment instead of the new treatment being tested, it may not be as effective as the new approach.
      •Health insurance and managed care providers do not always cover all patient care costs in a study. What they cover varies by plan and by study. To find out in advance what costs are likely to be paid in your case, talk to a doctor, nurse or social worker from the study.

      Another great resource from the NCI is “Questions to Ask Your Doctor about Treatment Clinical Trials”.
      Visit: http://www.cancer.gov/clinicaltrials/learningabout/questions-to-ask to learn more.

      Hope this information is helpful! Becky RN OCN

      over 4 years ago
    • FreeBird's Avatar

      Pro: You may be receiving something promising and new for your cancer, and your experience might help other people down the line. You may be receiving cutting edge science before it enters the standard of care. The standard therapies used now went through clinical trials. Some clinical trials might see more positive results than the standard of care.

      Con: You may feel like a guinea pig, and have no remarkable results at all except more side effects. Some of the studies I've looked at for dad's pancreatic cancer seem to be promising when you look at the drug company's information. So I wait to see the results, and it turns out to be nothing really remarkable to see the kind of results we're really looking for. It might be good news for investors. I have to keep in the back of my mind the potential bias that a company has when they're invested in finding another use for their drug to increase the bottom line. It's terrible to have to think like that, but I really have to look at the science and not the claims. In some cases, from what I understand, it might be difficult to pay for a clinical trial at some point. In order to take care of all the cons, ask lots of questions. One of the questions even if the drug company pays for the drug and insurance does not, is to ask whether they pay for it all the way through as long as you want or need it, or are there conditions in which they would stop paying for it.

      I found that the best thing to do might be to look at the science behind the clinical trial study, and what kind of results they saw in previous clinical trials. Ask the question "Why do they think this is going to work better that the therapy that failed?"

      First get very clear on your goals, and identify your values for what you're not willing to accept or go through. Sometimes deciding what you do not want is just as important as knowing what you want. Getting clear on what's important to you, and what you want, and asking questions might help you decide whether a particular clinical trial makes sense in your situation. Some of them, you might look at and say "no way." Others you might look at, and say, "wow, that looks like it could do something in a positive direction towards what I'm aiming for." Then you might take that idea to the doctor and say, "what do you think about this?"

      After an evaluation process, input from the doctor, talking with dad, nothing really looked good for dad's situation, to help him to meet his goals, and stay within the boundaries of what's important to him. That doesn't mean there might not be something out there that looks good for you. The website http://www.clinicaltrials.gov/ can be difficult to navigate and interpret for someone not in the medical field. If you can find organizations for your particular cancer, they might be able to help you navigate through this, and offer the benefit of their experience. For pancreatic cancer that my dad is experiencing, there's the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network and other organizations. I'm not familiar with your cancer enough to point to an organization. Maybe someone here can suggest one.

      over 4 years ago
    • matty's Avatar

      Adding; to what some have already said - many times you are getting a med or combination of meds that have already been proven in some way to be effective, but you might be receiving in a different manner to see in/how effective they are in a new form. ie: oral vs. iv.

      Also, many trials have a control group, or a group that does not receiving the drug at all; also sometimes referred to as the placebo group.

      over 4 years ago

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