Ten steps for selecting a clinical trial

1. Understand clinical trials Many Web sites are available with information on clinical trials. The American Cancer Society (ACS) and most cancer organizations offer information for patients who are considering participating in a clinical trial.

2. Talk to your oncology care team Ask your oncology care team about any clinical trials for which you may be eligible. They may know of a trial or be able to help you find one that is suitable for your cancer.

3. Gather information on your cancer diagnosis The Cancer Details Checklist, a form available on the National Cancer Institute (NCI) Web site, can help you gather information about your diagnosis and overall health. A member of your oncology care team can help you complete it.

4. Search for a trial The NCI and the National Library of Medicine (NLM) offer lists of clinical trials that are accepting participants. A clinical trial may be listed on both Web sites. The difference is how the information is presented. Use the list that you can understand the best.

5. Search other sources for a trial Other sources for lists of clinical trials include research organizations that conduct clinical trials, drug and biotechnology companies, clinical trial listing services, and cancer advocacy groups. These listings may include other trials not included in the NCI and NLM lists (see a partial list of resources on these pages). 

6. Make a list of potential clinical trials Save or print the summary of the trials in which you are interested in participating. Review the summaries and ask yourself what is the purpose of the trial, do your details match those of the entry criteria, where do you need to go to receive treatment and how often, and for how long will the trial be conducted. The answers to these questions can help you determine if the trial will work for you and your family.

7. Contact the clinical trial team You can contact the team directly, have a member of your oncology care team contact them, or the clinical trial team may contact you if you provided your contact information through a Web site. You should ask to speak to the "trial coordinator," the "referral coordinator," or the "protocol assistant." Have your Cancer Details Checklist handy because the clinical trial team will ask for that information.

8. Ask questions about the trial Write down any questions you may have about the trial, especially those that may affect your decision on whether to participate. Ask the clinical trial team those questions and any others you may have.

9. Discuss your options with your doctor Your research will have provided the information about the treatments in the clinical trials; next, you should speak to your doctor about the risks and benefits of standard treatments. You should compare the risks and benefits of all your treatment options.

10. Schedule an appointment If you want to participate in a clinical trial, schedule an appointment with the clinical trial team. You will likely meet with the person you spoke with when you first contacted them.

Source: How to find a cancer treatment trial: A 10-step guide. National Cancer Institute Web site. http://www.cancer.gov/clinicaltrials/learningabout/treatment-trial-guide. Accessed February 6, 2012

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