Once I find a clinical trial, how do I know if it’s a good fit for me?

Here are a few things to consider when deciding if a clinical trial is a good fit for you:

  • Determine if you meet the eligibility criteria
  • You should not have to pay to participate in a clinical trial (although there may be some expenses related to travelling to your appointments, etc.)
  • Determine if the clinical trial team is qualified. The clinical trial team should have related experience and an affiliation with an academic institution, and adhere to regulations and the ethics review process.
  • The clinical trial application should have been reviewed by a regulatory agency (for example, Health Canada).
  • The clinical trial should be reviewed/approved by a research ethics board and by the institution/hospital where it is taking place (for example, the hospital).

Learn more about research ethics boards and what they do.
Learn more about the research ethics process and why it exists

Where can I find more information about a clinical trial I am interested in?

Most clinical trials will have a primary contact person who can answer your questions.

If I decide to participate in a clinical trial, will my future medical care be affected?

  • In some clinical trials, you may require additional follow-ups.
  • Participation in a clinical trial may limit you from participating in other clinical trials.
  • It is important to ask the clinical trial team if your eligibility could change throughout the clinical trial, and how the clinical trial may affect your future medical care.

Will I receive adequate care during a clinical trial?

Clinical trial participants are very closely monitored and significant measures are taken to reduce risk and promote safety.

Although there are risks associated with clinical trials, many precautions are taken to minimise them as much as possible. Participants are closely monitored by the clinical trial team.

In the majority of cancer clinical trials, a new intervention is being compared to the current standard of care. Therefore, every person in a clinical trial for cancer does receive a real treatment (either the currently accepted treatment, or the new treatment being tested).

What should I ask the clinical trial team?

There are many questions that you may want to ask the clinical trial team. Some questions include:

Questions to learn more about the clinical trial

  • Am I eligible for this clinical trial? What might change my eligibility throughout the clinical trial?
  • What is the study intervention (for example, medication)? How will it be administered? For how long? How is this treatment different from my current treatment?
  • How many appointments will I have to attend? How long are the appointments? What will happen at these appointments? Where are the appointments? Should someone come with me to the appointments?
  • What are the possible risks? What are the possible benefits?
  • How long will this clinical trial last?
  • Will there be follow-up after the clinical trial is over? Short-term? Long-term?

Questions about potential side effects

  • How are “unacceptable side effects” defined?
  • What should I do if I start to experience unacceptable side effects during the clinical trial?
  • If I do experience side effects, how will I be treated for them?
  • Who is responsible for dealing with unacceptable side effects (my family doctor, my oncology team, and/or the clinical trial team)?
  • If I need medications to manage side effects, will they be supplied for me? Will there be a cost to me?
  • What happens if I have to temporarily delay or stop treatment until unacceptable side effects are dealt with? Does this lengthen the trial period?

Questions about your medical care

  • Will I continue to see my usual medical team during the clinical trial?
  • If I am not assigned to the intervention group (for example, if I do not receive the trial drug), will I receive the current standard of care?
  • Who else gets information on my health during the trial period? Will my family doctor and oncology team be kept up to date with any changes to my health?
  • If my condition starts to improve during the clinical trial, can I stay on the treatment when it is over?

Questions about the clinical trial team

  • Who is the study physician?
  • Who is funding this trial?
  • What are the experiences/credentials of the study team?
  • Who can I contact during the clinical trial if I have questions or concerns?

Other questions

  • Do I need to pay to participate in this clinical trial?
  • Do I need to travel for this clinical trial? When? Where? For how long? How often?
  • Will I be reimbursed for travel-related costs? If so, what is the reimbursement process?
  • If I want to withdraw from the study before it is over, how do I do that?
  • Will I learn about the results of the clinical trial? How will the results be shared?
  • Is it possible to participate in this clinical trial virtually?