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What should I know about research and clinical trials?

When you are diagnosed with lung cancer, you and your doctor should discuss whether or not a clinical trial is a good treatment option for you. If you are interested in taking part in a clinical trial and your doctor does not discuss this option with you, be sure to ask if opportunities are available.

What is a clinical trial?

Clinical trials are medical research studies that test the safety and effectiveness of promising approaches to disease prevention, diagnosis, treatment and care.

Clinical trials that test cancer treatments might involve the use of drugs, radiation therapy, surgery or other treatment methods. Treatments are only brought to clinical trials after significant prior research shows they have promise. These trials are carefully conducted by doctors and trained teams to ensure that patients receive the best possible treatment and care.
Some people think they should consider a clinical trial only after they’ve exhausted standard lung cancer treatment options. However, no matter where you are in your treatment process, there may be a clinical trial that is right for you. In fact, many trials are available for people who have just been diagnosed or who have early-stage lung cancer.

People are also sometimes concerned that if they participate in a clinical trial they might only get a “sugar pill” (placebo) and not get any treatment at all. In fact, all patients participating in cancer clinical trials receive the best cancer treatment currently known for their type and stage of cancer. If placebos (non-active pills, injections, etc.) are used, patients usually receive them in addition to standard, proven treatments. Placebos may also be used when testing a new treatment for a particular type or stage of disease for which no standard treatments are available, but this is uncommon in cancer clinical trials. If a placebo will be used in a trial, patients are fully informed.

Did you know?

  • Many patients find that clinical trials offer them excellent treatment options and care. Patients report they get more attention and more frequent check-ups during their clinical trial experience.
  • Patients participating in cancer clinical trials may have the opportunity to receive cutting-edge cancer treatments that have shown promise in early research.
  • Many newer treatments are only available through clinical trials.
  • By taking an active role in their care, clinical trial participants often feel empowered.
  • When you participate in a clinical trial, you’re investing in the future of cancer therapy for those who are diagnosed after you.

Important issues to keep in mind

  • Your clinical trial options will be based on your particular type and stage of lung cancer and your overall health. To determine which clinical trials are appropriate for you, talk to your doctor.
  • All clinical trial participants are volunteers who can stop at any time they choose, for any reason, and return to the standard treatment.
  • As with any cancer treatment option, there are potential risks and benefits to clinical trials. Be sure to discuss these with your doctor or the clinical trial coordinator as you make decisions.
  • Many safeguards are put into place to protect patients involved in trials. All clinical trials are reviewed and followed by outside experts to make sure the patients’ health and well-being are looked after.
  • If you volunteer for a clinical trial, you may have additional office visits, tests, or procedures. Be sure you understand what is involved with a trial as you make your decision.
  • Your insurance and/or the trial itself will usually pay for your care in a clinical trial. Your doctor’s office should be able to help you contact your insurance company before you start a clinical trial, and deal with any insurance issues.

Locating clinical trials

You can find clinical trials specific to your condition and area of the country. Ask your doctor for referrals or check out our website at LCRF.org/clinical-trials. Call the Lung Cancer Support Line toll free at (844) 835-4325 for help.

To talk with someone who has been through a clinical trial, call the Cancer Hope Network toll-free at (800) 552-4366.

Clinical trials = progress

Clinical trials are a critical step in the process of getting new treatment options approved for care. By participating in a clinical trial, you’ll be helping researchers and doctors make lifesaving treatments available to more people like you.