7. Consider Joining a Clinical Trial

Clinical trials provide patients with access to emerging, promising therapies. Be sure to ask your neuro-oncologist about specific clinical trials aimed at treating your particular tumor type, and check our resources for finding clinical trials.

Clinical trials are how new drugs are tested for their safety and efficacy. Though there is no guarantee that a drug in trial will be effective, it can be a good option for those who do not think the standard care treatments are right for them, or people for whom the standard treatments haven’t worked. Your doctor may suggest clinical trials for you to join, especially if you are at a major research hospital with a highly-informed doctor. However in many cases, it will benefit you to research clinical trials for yourself or with the help of a nurse advocate.

If a clinical trial is presented as a treatment option, explore with your doctor why she believes this trial might be of benefit.  Are there particular characteristics of your tumors that leads her to think a specific trial is the best option? Inquire about clinical trials at other institutions and ask your doctor if she is comfortable working collaboratively with other doctors to coordinate your care.

Also know that once you start chemotherapy and radiation you may become ineligible for a significant number of trials. So evaluate the clinical trial options before you start chemo and radiation if you’re able to.

In a clinical trial, if researchers learn that a treatment harms you, you will be taken off the study right away. You also have the right to leave a study at any time.[1]

Clinical trials are run in a process of four phases:

  • Phase 1: Examines the safety and studies appropriate dose ranges.
  • Phase 2: Evaluates the safety and efficacy of the product at a pre-determined dose in comparison to the standard of care treatment.
  • Phase 3: Evaluates the product compared to the standard of care in a large diverse population to determine broader efficacy and develop usage guidelines.
  • Phase 4: Evaluates the long term effects of a drug post-FDA approval for public use.[2]

All clinical trials treatments can have different side effects depending on what treatment is being tested, so it is vital to discuss this with your doctors. Possible side effects should also be enumerated in the release that you sign to participate in the trial. By nature of the trial, you also may be put in the placebo group that does not receive the experimental treatment.

Nontherapeutic clinical trials involve monitoring some aspect of a patient’s health throughout the course of care without adding a new investigational agent to the patient’s current treatment.[3] This could be something like a diet, for example. They can be a lower-risk way to help add to science’s body of knowledge on cancer.


National Institutes of Health Clinical Trials Database

Center for Information & Study on Clinical Research Participation

Musella Foundation, clinical trials database

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10 Steps: Living with Brain Cancer


[1] Deanna Glass-Macenka and Alessandro Olivi, “Patient’s Guide to Brain Cancer,” Johns Hopkins Medicine, 2012.

[2] “Glioblastoma Multiforme,” Faster Cures, 2012.

[3] Deanna Glass-Macenka and Alessandro Olivi, “Patient’s Guide to Brain Cancer,” Johns Hopkins Medicine, 2012.