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Clinical Trials FAQs

Updated April 20, 2010

Should I consider getting an investigational therapy for my metastatic breast cancer?

I’m thinking about participating in a clinical trial. How do I find one that’s right for someone with metastatic breast cancer?

How can I find clinical trials near where I live?

What does it mean to be “eligible” for a clinical trial? Why are some people not accepted into clinical trials?

Once I’m in a clinical trial, do I have to stick to the treatment or can I withdraw?

Q: Should I consider getting an investigational therapy for metastatic breast cancer?

A: Exploring clinical trial options with your doctor may be a good approach to gathering as much information as possible before making treatment decisions. You may want to participate in a clinical trial because it may not only benefit you, but it may also help researchers get answers to questions about the safety or effectiveness of newly developed treatments that will help others with breast cancer in the future.

There are a number of promising investigational treatments for metastatic breast cancer. Your doctor can help you weigh the risks and benefits and decide if an investigational therapy is a good option for you.

Reviewed by Rebecca S.Trupp, RN, OCN, CBPN-IC

Q: I’m thinking about participating in a clinical trial. How do I find one that’s right for someone with metastatic breast cancer?

A: There are many resources available to help you find a clinical trial that will fit with your treatment needs, disease and treatment history, and lifestyle preferences. These include:

  • Your doctors. Talk to your oncologist and other doctors on your healthcare team about clinical trials that they may have available for you at the institution where you receive your care, or that may be available in your area. Many doctors participate in ongoing trials or know about others that are enrolling people all over the country. If your oncologist doesn’t have an available trial for you, ask how you can learn about trials at other treatment centers.
  • Living Beyond Breast Cancer offers a comprehensive Clinical Trials Resource Center with links to extensive clinical trial information and listings.
  • EmergingMed is a website and telephone service that is constantly updated with all clinical trials available, organized by tumor type. It provides extensive information about how clinical trials are run and how to find one that may be right for you through the website and telephone counselors at (877) 601-8601.
  • The National Cancer Institute lists clinical trials all over the world on its website and gives information by phone at (800) 422-6237. The same information organized in a different way is available from the U.S. National Library of Medicine. You may want to check both sites to see which works better for you.

As you look into clinical trials, consider discussing these questions with your doctor, oncology nurse or social worker:

  • What types of treatment might be beneficial to me now, considering my treatment and disease history?
  • Are there any tests that might be beneficial in helping to predict how I might respond to treatment? Are these tests investigational or proved to be effective?
  • Am I willing to enroll in a trial in which I do not know whether I'll receive the investigational treatment or the standard of care?
  • How far am I willing to travel to participate in a trial?
  • What are the potential risks of participating in a clinical trial? What are the alternatives?
  • What happens if my disease progresses while I am on a clinical trial?
  • What expenses might be involved in participating? Will my insurance cover these expenses? What will the sponsor of the trial cover?

Reviewed by Elyse Spatz Caplan, MA

Q: How can I find clinical trials near where I live?

A: Your doctor should be able to help you. You can also do a search by your location and cancer type at ClinicalTrials.gov. This website lists both federally and privately supported clinical research and gives you information about each trial's purpose, who may participate, locations and phone numbers to call for more details.

Reviewed by Elyse Spatz Caplan, MA

Q: What does it mean to be “eligible” for a clinical trial? Why are some people not accepted into clinical trials?

A: Clinical trials are planned to answer certain research questions. Part of that planning involves recruiting participants who are alike in certain ways—who have the same stage of breast cancer, for example. Researchers also want to make sure participants don’t have particular medical conditions, such as high blood pressure, that might be worsened by certain treatments.

People who have specific cancer traits that match those outlined in the clinical trial are eligible and can volunteer as participants in the study. But those who have medical conditions that might be worsened by the treatment will not be allowed into the study.

Reviewed by Elyse Spatz Caplan, MA

Q: Once I’m in a clinical trial, do I have to stick to the treatment or can I withdraw?

A: You can withdraw from a clinical trial at any time. If you think you want to stop participating in a trial, please discuss your concerns or problems with your doctor or nurse. In many cases, these issues may be resolved and you may decide to remain with the study.

Reviewed by Rebecca S.Trupp, RN, OCN, CBPN-IC

Denver, CO  ·  September 13, 2014

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