Clinical trials

Many people are offered a trial as part of treatment. Find out more to help you decide if a trial is right for you.

What are clinical trials?

Clinical trials are medical research studies involving people. Doctors may use cancer clinical trials to:

  • test new treatments to see if they work better than current treatments
  • find which treatments have fewer side effects
  • find new ways to combine treatments to see if they work better
  • test new cancer drugs to find out more about them and their side effects
  • improve the way treatments are given to try to reduce side effects.

Results from clinical trials can improve cancer treatments and help people live longer. Trials can also look at improving things like diagnosis and symptom management.

Taking part in a clinical trial

Your cancer doctor or specialist nurse may talk to you about taking part in a clinical trial. Or you could ask them if there are any trials suitable for you.

Usually, cancer clinical trials happen in several hospitals around the country. You may have to travel to take part in a trial.

A research nurse or doctor will give you information about the trial. It is important to understand what is involved before you give consent to take part. You can ask the research nurse or doctor any questions you have.

They will also explain the possible benefits and any possible risks of the trial. Clinical trials are designed to be as safe as possible. The researchers will monitor you closely during and after the trial.

If you decide not to take part in a trial, your cancer doctor and specialist nurse will respect your decision. You do not have to give a reason for not taking part. Your decision will not change your care. Your cancer doctor will give you the standard treatment for the type and stage of cancer you have.

Giving blood and tissue samples

During your diagnosis and treatment doctors often take blood samples. They may also take a small piece of tissue or a sample of cells. These tissue samples are called biopsies.

The samples can be looked at under a microscope. Your cancer doctor may ask your permission to store and use these blood or tissue samples for cancer research. This will only happen after they have done all the tests you need.

Your samples can only be stored for research if you give your consent. Your cancer doctor can answer any questions you have.

Your name is removed from the samples before they are stored. This means you cannot be identified.

The samples may be used to:

  • find out more about the causes of certain cancers
  • develop new cancer drugs or treatments.

This type of research takes a long time. The results may not be available for many years.