Is a Clinical Trial Right for Me?

If you have extensive small-cell lung cancer (SCLC), treatments can improve your symptoms and prolong your life, but they can’t cure your cancer.

You may want to join a clinical trial. These studies test the safety and effectiveness of new treatments. They help doctors understand which treatments are best for their patients.

A clinical trial may give you the chance to receive a new therapy that isn’t available to the general public. But there are pros and cons to think about before you sign up.

Am I a Good Fit for a Clinical Trial?

Each clinical trial has specific guidelines for who can enroll. If you agree to take part, a professional will screen you to be sure you meet the criteria.

The following things may determine if you’re eligible:

  • Age
  • Gender
  • Family history
  • The type and stage of your cancer
  • Previous treatments you’ve had
  • Other medical conditions you have

Usually, you can only take part in one clinical trial at a time.

Questions to Ask

Before you join, you should know as much about the trial as possible. Here are some questions to ask:

  • What’s does this trial study?
  • What treatments will I receive during the study?
  • Why do researchers believe this treatment might be effective? Has it been tested before?
  • What are my treatment options if I don’t participate in this trial?
  • What are the possible risks or side effects?
  • What tests and procedures will I need to have?
  • How long will this trial last?
  • How often will someone at the hospital or clinic need to see me? Will I have to travel anywhere else?
  • Will my insurance cover the costs?
  • What type of care is available after the study ends?
  • If the treatment works for me, will I be able to take it after the trial ends?
  • Who will be in charge of my medical care while I participate?

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What to Expect From a Clinical Trial

To join a trial, you’ll first have to sign a consent form.

After you’ve enrolled, you’ll probably need a full physical exam -- along with other tests such as blood tests or imaging tests -- before you receive treatment.

When your treatment starts, you may need specific tests and exams to assess its effectiveness. You’ll likely be monitored more carefully than those who aren’t part of a study. Doctors and nurses will especially want to know about any side effects that you have.

Remember, a clinical trial is voluntary, and you can quit at any time.

Pros and Cons of Clinical Trials

If you choose to join a clinical trial, you should know there are benefits and risks.

On the positive side, you might have the chance to get cutting-edge treatments that aren’t available otherwise. You’ll also receive high-quality care and more frequent checkups. And your participation may help identify treatment options for people with lung cancer in the future. 

There could also be downsides. The therapy you receive might not be better than the standard care. You may have risks or side effects that doctors don’t know about. Also, health insurance companies don’t always cover the cost.

How to Find a Clinical Trial for Extensive SCLC

If you think you might want to join a clinical trial, talk to your doctor. They may be able to point you in the right direction.

There are also resources online that let you search for trials. Some include:

  • Clinicaltrials.gov. This government-run database lets you search for privately and publicly funded clinical studies.
  • National Cancer Institute. The organization provides a tool to help you find NCI-supported clinical trials in locations across the United States and Canada.
  • CenterWatch. This site offers a database with thousands of open clinical trials.

If you’d like to talk to someone who’s been through a clinical trial, call the Cancer Hope Network at 877-HOPENET (877-467-3638) or visit their site to request a match with a lung cancer survivor.  

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Brunilda Nazario, MD on April 06, 2020

Sources

SOURCES:

UpToDate: “Patient education: Small cell lung cancer treatment (Beyond the Basics).”

Lungcancer.org: “Clinical Trials.”

National Institute on Aging: “What are Clinical Trials and Studies?”

Clinicaltrials.gov. “Learn About Clinical Studies.”

American Cancer Society: “What’s It Like to Be in a Clinical Trial?”

Lung Cancer Research Foundation: “Clinical Trials.”

University of Iowa Health Care: “Study Risks.”

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