National Cancer Institute National Cancer Institute
U.S. National Institutes of Health National Cancer Institute
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How to Find a Cancer Treatment Trial: A 10-Step Guide
    Posted: 03/21/2005
Related Pages
Search for Clinical Trials 1
NCI's PDQ® registry of cancer clinical trials.

Educational Materials About Clinical Trials 2
What clinical trials are, how they work, and other educational materials for patients and professionals.
Related Information
View/Print a PDF of this guide 3

Need help finding a trial?
  Call 1-800-4-CANCER


This guide will help you to look for a cancer treatment clinical trial that might benefit you. It is not intended to provide medical advice. You, your health care team, and your loved ones are in the best position to decide whether a clinical trial is right for you.

This guide will help you to

  • gather the information you need to begin your search for a clinical trial
  • identify sources of clinical trial listings
  • learn about clinical trials that may be of benefit to you
  • ask questions that will help you decide whether or not to participate in a particular trial

A Word About Timing

Many treatment trials will only take patients who have not yet been treated for their condition. Researchers conducting these trials are hoping to find an improved "first-line" treatment option for that type of cancer.

  • If you are newly diagnosed with cancer, the time to consider joining a clinical trial is before you've had surgery, chemotherapy, radiation, or other forms of treatment (tests to diagnose your cancer are okay). However, don't delay treatment if waiting could harm you. Talk with your doctor about how quickly you need to make a treatment decision.

  • If you have received one or more forms of treatment and are looking for a new treatment option, there also are many clinical trial options for you. You may want to look for trials that are testing a new follow-up treatment that may prevent the return of your cancer. Or, if your first treatment failed to work, you may want to look for trials of new “second-line” or even “third-line” treatments.

Glossary Terms

first-line therapy (... THAYR-uh-pee)
The first treatment for a disease or condition. In patients with cancer, first-line therapy can be surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, or a combination of these therapies. Also called primary therapy and primary treatment.

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