Elizabeth LacasiaThe first step in deciding whether a clinical trial is right for you is to talk with your doctor.

You may also call us to schedule an appointment with one of our cancer specialists or contact a clinical trial coordinator.

How is eligibility determined?

All clinical trials have guidelines about who can participate. The factors that make a patient eligible to participate in a clinical trial are called "inclusion criteria." The factors that make a patient ineligible are called "exclusion criteria."

Examples of these criteria include age, gender, the type and stage of cancer, previous treatment history and other medical conditions.

Inclusion and exclusion criteria are not used to reject or accept people personally. Instead, the criteria are used to identify appropriate participants and keep them safe. The criteria help ensure that researchers will be able to answer the questions they plan to study.

A doctor or clinical trial coordinator cannot learn enough about you over the phone to accept you into a clinical trial. Ensuring that you meet the inclusion criteria for a particular trial requires an office visit for a physical examination and a review of your medical record.

Talk with your doctor

When you talk with your doctor or members of the research team about a clinical trial, consider taking a family member or friend along. It can help to have another set of ears and eyes in the room.

Writing down what you want to ask your doctor ahead of time can also be helpful — but don’t hesitate to ask any new questions you think of while you’re there. It’s a good idea to bring a pen and notebook so you can write down the answers as well.

Here are some questions to get you started:

  • What is the purpose of the trial?
  • How are trial results and patient safety being checked?
  • How long will the trial last?
  • What are the potential short- and long-term benefits?
  • What other options do people with any type of cancer have?
  • How do the possible risks and benefits of this trial compare with those options?
  • What kinds of therapies, procedures and/or tests will I have during the trial and would I have them if I did not participate in the trial?
  • Will I be able to take my regular medications while in the clinical trial?
  • Where will I receive my medical care?
  • How might being in this study affect my daily life?
  • May I talk to other people in the study?
  • May I leave the trial at any time?