Clinical Trials Myths and Facts

Clinical trials are available throughout the diagnostic, treatment and survivorship process, and they are critical to the development of new treatments for cancer patients.

Many myths surround clinical trials, and when you're considering a trial, it's important to know what's fact and what's fiction. The following information comes from the Coalition of National Cancer Cooperative Groups, Inc. For more information about this coalition or clinical trials, go to All survey results refer to the Harris Interactive Survey, 2000.

Myth: Cancer patients do not enroll in clinical trials because they believe they are unsafe or too risky.
Fact: 85 percent of respondents to a Harris Interactive Survey in 2000 reported that they were unaware that a clinical trial was even a treatment option, and 75 percent said they would have been willing to enroll if they knew it was an option.

Myth: Clinical trial patients are treated like "guinea pigs."
Fact: 97 percent of survey respondents who participated in clinical trials reported that they were treated with dignity and respect and received excellent or good quality care.

Myth: If I participate in a clinical trial, I may receive inferior treatment.
Fact: It is well documented that patients who participate in clinical trials have outcomes as good as, if not better than, those who do not participate, even if they get the best standard therapy. Experimental therapies do not replace standard therapy. This means you would receive the experimental treatment along with the standard care.

Myth: Clinical trial patients receive placebos ("sugar" pills).
Fact: Placebos are rarely used in cancer clinical trials and they are not used in place of the best-known treatment for a given cancer.

Myth: Insurance will not cover the costs of a clinical trial.
Fact: 86 percent of survey respondents who enrolled in cancer clinical trials reported that their costs were covered by their insurance plan. In other words, these patients had their routine care costs covered. In 2002, the state of Georgia entered into an agreement with insurance companies requiring health plans to pay the cost of routine medical care you receive as a participant in a clinical trial. This is called the Georgia Cancer Coalition Agreement.

Myth: Medicare does not cover costs of participation in a clinical trial.
Fact: An executive memorandum issued in June 2000 directs Medicare to cover the patient care costs of a trial.

Myth: I can only participate in a trial if I have access to a major medical institution.
Fact: Clinical trials are conducted at academic centers and community oncology practices throughout the country. Both oncology practices in Athens offer clinical trials to their patients.

Clinical trials are not for everyone, and not every patient may be eligible, but they are an important treatment choice that cancer patients should discuss with their doctors. For more information on clinical trials, please contact the Loran Smith Center for Cancer Support.