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How to Find a Cancer Treatment Trial
This guide will help you to learn about cancer treatment trials that are of potential benefit to you and to decide whether to participate in a particular trial.
How to Find Clinical Trials Using the Basic Search Form
Type of Cancer
Stage/Subtype of Cancer
Type of Trial
Location of Trial

Helpful Hints to Prepare Your Search

Help With Your Clinical Trials Search Results
Unexpected Search Results

About Your Search Results

How To Get Help From an Information Specialist

How to Find Clinical Trials Using the Basic Search Form

Screenshot of basic search form

The basic search form allows you to choose from the following four search criteria to create your search.

Type of Cancer

Use this list to choose the type of cancer being studied in a clinical trial(s). For example:

  • Breast cancer
  • Cervical cancer
  • Brain tumor, adult
  • Leukemia, chronic lymphocytic (CLL)

Stage/Subtype of Cancer

After you select a type of cancer, this list will show you the stages/subtypes for the selected cancer. The stage of cancer is the extent of cancer within the body. You may select one or more stages/subtypes. If you don't know the stage or subtype of cancer, choose "All." For example if you select adult brain tumor for type of cancer, you will see multiple subtypes available for selection, such as:
  • Adult anaplastic astrocytoma
  • Adult anaplastic meningioma
  • Adult anaplastic oligodendroglioma

Type of Trial

Use this list to choose the type of trial. You have the option to choose from 6 types of trials and you may select one or more types or "All." For example:

  • Treatment trials study potential anticancer treatments, their safety, and their effectiveness.
  • Screening trials check for disease when there are no symptoms.
  • Genetic trials study the genetic factors that may influence the development of cancer or the response to cancer treatment.
  • Supportive care trials study treatments to prevent, control, or relieve complications and side effects and to improve patients' comfort and quality of life.
  • Prevention trials study methods of preventing disease.
  • Diagnostic trials evaluate methods of detecting disease.

Location of Trial

Enter either your ZIP Code to search for trials in your area or the ZIP Code of another area of interest. The searches are automatically limited to within 20 miles of the ZIP Code that you enter. To widen the search area use the drop down list to select choices between 0 and 500 miles. For example:

  • If the ZIP code in your area is 44505 and you are willing to travel up to 50 miles to participate in a trial, then you would enter your ZIP Code and select 50 miles from the list.

If you don't know the ZIP Code, use the link to "ZIP Code Lookup" which pops up a page from the U.S. Postal Service Web site. Find the ZIP Code by entering the address and copy it from the pop up window into the form.

To limit your search to clinical trials being conducted at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), check the box for "Only trials at the NIH Clinical Center (Bethesda, Md.)."

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Helpful Hints to Prepare Your Search

It is helpful if you first talk to your health care provider and gather as much information as possible about your particular situation, such as the specific type and stage of cancer, and the type of trial that might be relevant (treatment, diagnostic). The following information will help you prepare your search and evaluate the results.

  • You may wish to start with the basic (short) form and then refine your search by using the advanced (long) form.
  • In the basic form, you can choose a "Type of Cancer," "Stage/subtype," "Type of Trial," and/or "Location of Trial."
  • In the advanced form you can create your search using more detailed information. You can select multiple criteria to narrow your search or you can look up a specific trial.
  • The fields on the search form specify the different criteria you can use to narrow your search.
  • The more criteria you choose, the fewer results you are likely to get.
  • You may skip any criteria that are unknown or not applicable. The default value for every field is "All."

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Help With Your Clinical Trials Search Results

The Search Results page displays a list of trials in PDQ that match the criteria that you selected on the search form. See About Your Search Results to learn more about the information presented for each trial when you click on the title.

Screenshot of clinical trials search results from the basic search form
  1. The top of the page shows the number of trials that matched your criteria.
  2. Use the "Show" drop down list to change the number of trials displayed on each page.
  3. Click the "View Search Criteria" link to see the criteria you selected for your search.
  4. The trial results are listed by phase. For example, phase IV trials will be displayed first followed by phase III, phase II, and finally phase I.
  5. To change the way the trials are listed, click on the heading for each column - for example, "Title of Trial" - to reorder that column. The triangle next to the heading indicates that the list is reordered on that column: if it points upward, the list is sorted in alphabetical order; if downward, it is in reverse alphabetical order.
  6. The title of each trial is a link to the trial's description.
  7. You may e-mail your search results to another person by copying the URL of your search results into the body of your e-mail. Or you can send the individual trials by using the "E-mail This Document" page option that appears on each clinical trial description page.

Unexpected Search Results

You may find that your search result includes trials that are not exactly what you wanted. To improve your search, try refining your search or start a new search.

  1. The "Refine Search" link at the bottom of the page takes you to an advanced search form, where you can specify more criteria.
  2. To return to a cleared search form and start a new search, click on the "new search" button at the bottom of the page.

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About Your Search Results

There are two versions of each trial description - one designed for patients and another for health professionals. The patient version is written using non-technical language and the health professional version is written using technical terminology. You may move between the two by using the tabs near the top of the page.

Alternate Title

When using the basic search form your trial results will be displayed using the patient version of the trial description along with a patient-friendly or non-technical title. You will also see an alternate title, which is the health professional or more technical title.

Basic Trial Information

The basic trial information identifies the phase, type, status, age, sponsor, and protocol identification numbers.

Phase of Trial

Most clinical trials are designated as phase I, II, III, or IV, based on the type of questions the trial is trying to answer.

  • Phase I - trials that test the best way to give a new treatment (for example, by mouth, intravenous infusion, or injection) and the best dose.
  • Phase II - trials that test whether a new treatment has an anticancer effect (for example, whether it shrinks a tumor or improves blood test results) and whether it works against certain types of cancer.
  • Phase III - trials that compare the results of people taking a new treatment with the results of people taking the standard treatment (for example, which groups have better survival rates or fewer side effects).
  • Phase IV - trials that evaluate side effects that were not apparent in the phase III trial.

Type of Trial

The broad category describing the overall purpose of the trial. Some trials fall into more than one category.

  • Treatment - trials that study potential anticancer treatments, their safety, and their effectiveness.
  • Screening - trials that check for disease when there are no symptoms.
  • Genetics - trials that study the genetic factors that may influence the development of cancer or the response to cancer treatment.
  • Supportive care - trials that study treatments to prevent, control, or relieve complications and side effects and to improve patients' comfort and quality of life.
  • Prevention - trials that study ways to prevent disease.
  • Diagnostic - trials that evaluate methods of detecting disease.

Status of Trial

This category displays the status of the trials as active. Active trials are those accepting new patients.


Any age limits there may be for participating in the trial are listed.

Sponsor of Trial

For NCI trials, sponsorship is assigned based on how the trial is reviewed. For all others, assignment is based on who is coordinating or funding the trial. The three sponsorships for trials in PDQ are:

  • One of the institutes or centers at the National Institutes of Health (NIH)
  • Pharmaceutical
  • Other medical/research institutions

Some insurance companies may have restrictions on the trials they will cover. For example, they may cover costs for trials sponsored by some organizations but not others.

Protocol IDs

An identification (ID) number that makes it easy to find a specific trial (similar to a book's call number in a library). Use this field only if you know the ID number or partial ID for a specific trial.

  • Enter one or more protocol IDs, separating them with commas.
  • The search results will list trials that include any of the IDs you entered.

Trial Description

The trial description does not include all the details about the trial. You or your health care provider can use the contact information to find out more about the trial. Each trial description contains the following sections:


The type of trial being conducted, what treatments will be given or tests will be performed, and what researchers hope to accomplish.


The requirements that patients must meet to participate in the trial, so that the researchers can ensure the safety of patients and the scientific validity of the trial. For example, treatment trials may list type and stage of cancer, age, previous treatment, other health conditions, and more. The patient version of the trial description lists only some of the eligibility criteria. The health professional version of the trial description has a more complete list.

Treatment/ Intervention

The type of treatment or intervention, and how often it will be given.

Trial Lead Organizations

A list of one or more academic hospitals, research institutes, pharmaceutical companies, cancer centers, or cooperative groups responsible for coordinating the trial.

Trial Sites and Contacts

The people or organizations conducting the trial. They can provide more information about the trial, including eligibility, the enrollment process, and other details.

Note: Some of the trials in PDQ are cancer trials from the National Library of Medicine's (NLM) database. Because these trials are obtained from another database, they may not contain all of the categories of information listed above. Also, the trials from the database contain the same text in both the patient and health professional versions.

Related Information

Links to Web pages with information related to the clinical trial are listed.

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How To Get Help From an Information Specialist

If you do not want to search for trials on your own, you may get help from an experienced information specialist or use the live, online help available through the National Cancer Institute's (NCI) Cancer Information Service (CIS).

  • To get help from a specialist, call NCI's Cancer Information Service (CIS) at 1-800-4-CANCER (1-800-422-6237) or TTY: 1-800-332-8615 between 9:00 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. local time, Monday - Friday. The CIS specialist will ask about your specific situation and provide information relevant to your needs.
  • Live, online help is available through the CIS LiveHelp instant messaging service Monday - Friday, 9:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. U.S. Eastern time. Find the CIS "Need Help" link in the sidebar at the left of most pages of NCI's Web site.

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