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How to Find a Cancer Treatment Trial: A 10-Step Guide
    Posted: 03/21/2005


Before You Start:
Steps 1-3

Step 1

Step 2

Step 3

Searching for a Trial:
Steps 4-6

Step 4

Step 5

Step 6

After Finding a Trial:
Steps 7-10

Step 7

Step 8

Step 9

Step 10

Diagnosis Checklist

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Searching for a Trial: Step 4

Search the PDQ® Clinical Trials Database

There are many nonprofit and for-profit resources in the United States that offer lists of cancer clinical trials. Unfortunately, no single list is complete. Clinical trials are run by many different organizations, so it is hard to collect information about all of them in one place.

However, the majority of trials listed in most resources are obtained from the Physician Data Query (PDQ) clinical trials database, which is maintained by the U.S. National Cancer Institute (NCI).

The NCI is the U.S. government's chief agency for cancer research and is part of the National Institutes of Health. The PDQ clinical trials database contains a list of more than 2,000 cancer clinical trials worldwide.

NOTE: The U.S. National Library of Medicine maintains a database called that includes trials for many diseases and conditions, including cancer. The PDQ and databases contain the same cancer treatment trial listings. The main difference is in how information is searched and displayed. You may prefer one way over another.

Important: Get a Copy of the Protocol Summary

Steps 4 and 5 describe where to look for cancer clinical trials. Whichever resource you use, be sure to

  • get a copy of the protocol summary for each trial you are interested in

What is a protocol? It is the action plan for the trial. The protocol explains what will be done in the trial, how, and why. The protocol should also list the location(s) where the trial will enroll participants.

Both PDQ and (Step 4) provide detailed summaries of the official protocols for each trial listed on their Web sites. Other resources (Step 5) may or may not provide protocol summaries.

How to Search PDQ

  • Search PDQ by telephone. Make a free telephone call - in English or Spanish - within the United States to the National Cancer Institute's Cancer Information Service (CIS) at 1-800-4-CANCER (1-800-422-6237). All calls to the CIS are strictly confidential.

    • When you call the CIS, be ready with the details of your Diagnosis Checklist from Step 3.

    • The CIS is staffed with understanding and knowledgable information specialists who will search PDQ for you. They can send you the search results and protocol summaries by e-mail, fax, or regular mail. The CIS can also provide you with reliable information about your type of cancer and the current standard therapy for treating it.

  • Search PDQ through the NCI Web site. You can look for trials yourself using a PDQ search form on the NCI Web site. Remember to print out the protocol summaries for each trial you may be interested in.
    • The basic search form allows you to search by type of cancer, stage or subtype of cancer, and location of trial (ZIP code).
    • The advanced search form lets you create your search using more detailed information, such as the hospital or institution involved, type of treatment, and phase of trial.
    • If you would like help searching PDQ while you're online, consider using LiveHelp. Through LiveHelp, you can communicate confidentially and in real time with a CIS information specialist from the National Cancer Institute. The service is available Monday through Friday from 9:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. Eastern time.

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