News from Illinois CancerCare

5 Myths About Clinical Trials – and the Truths You Need to Know

Research holds the keys to improved treatment options and possible cancer cures. That’s why Illinois CancerCare is fully committed to offering access to important global clinical trials right here in Illinois.

Although 6% of eligible Illinois CancerCare patients enroll in clinical trials, experts say that only 3% to 5% of eligible adults participate in clinical trials nationally. In fact, a large number of trials are unable to enroll enough patients to study the potential benefits of a new treatment option.

One reason some people don’t enroll is because they don’t have convenient access to clinical trials – or they aren’t aware that research sites are actually nearby. Fortunately, Illinois CancerCare offers more than 80 clinical trials on an ongoing basis, increasing your opportunity to participate in this impactful research.

In addition to the issue of potential inconvenience or distance, there are multiple myths many people believe about clinical trials.

Here are some of the most common misconceptions, along with the facts:

I don’t want to be treated like a guinea pig.

We agree! We treat our patients with dignity and compassion. If your physician suggests a clinical trial, it’s because he or she feels that the treatment you would receive in a clinical trial is as good or potentially better that the standard approach. Investigational drugs used in a clinical trial have been rigorously studied and reviewed by the FDA for years prior to being offered to patients. Learn more about federal safety rules here.

If I enroll in a clinical trial, I’m stuck with it no matter what.

As a volunteer in a research study, you aren’t locked into a trial if you decide you’re unable to continue. We will provide you with complete details and make sure you understand the details of the trial. This is called informed consent and is not only a legal requirement, it’s also our belief that you’re entitled to know all the facts.

I can’t afford it and I don’t think my insurance will cover the extra costs.

Federal law requires insurance companies to cover standard costs. Medicare has been paying for study expenses since 2000. If the clinical trial requires extra testing (blood tests, imaging, etc.), the study sponsor typically covers those costs. Money shouldn’t stand between a patient and their trial participation – we can talk with you about options for covering extra expenses (like gas or other incidentals) if that is a concern.

I’m worried I won’t get the treatment I really need.

Because people have heard about clinical trials for conditions like depression, arthritis and high cholesterol that use placebos (inactive substances sometimes called “sugar pills”), they’re understandably concerned about not getting the treatment they need. In most cases, cancer trials, patients receive either standard treatment or standard treatment PLUS an additional therapy. In oncology research, a patient will only receive a placebo if there isn’t an existing standard treatment option.

Clinical trials are a last-ditch effort for patients without hope.

Although this is a somewhat common perception, clinical trials can be open to patients at various stages of cancer and throughout different steps of treatment. If your physician thinks you’re a suitable candidate for a clinical trial, he or she will offer a recommendation based on your individual needs.


As with other aspects of your cancer treatment, it’s important to have an open dialogue about clinical trials with your healthcare team. At Illinois CancerCare, our staff is always available to answer your questions and provide you with detailed information.