Doc, Can We Talk About Clinical Trials?

CURE, Summer 2010, Volume 9, Issue 2

Even if your doctor hasn’t mentioned the possibility of a clinical trial or getting treatment through a clinical trial, you still may be eligible for a study.

Even if your doctor hasn’t mentioned the possibility of a clinical trial or getting treatment through a clinical trial, you still may be eligible for a study.

The National Cancer Institute provides a list of questions you can ask (see www.cancer.gov/clinicaltrials and click on “Educational Materials about Clinical Trials”).

The site also offers suggestions to make the discussion less stressful, such as bringing a family member and taking notes or recording the conversation so you don’t have to absorb all the information in one sitting. Many of the questions are practical issues you would want to know, such as “Who will be in charge of my care?” or “Will I have to pay for any part of the trial?”

The important thing is to not be afraid to start a conversation, says Margo Michaels, executive director of the nonprofit Education Network to Advance Cancer Clinical Trials. You can ask, “Do you know of a clinical trial that may be appropriate for my type of cancer?” If there’s a trial right for you, and your doctor doesn’t participate, find out if you can be referred to an oncologist who does.

If you find a trial, look at the type of cancer and type of patients who are being recruited to see if you would qualify. Often, for example, studies are only looking for patients with cancer at a certain stage, or volunteers with a history of certain medications. If you have questions, don’t hesitate to ask your doctor for help. Your oncologist may not know the answer immediately, but will know where to find out.